It is time to round off the group stage of Europa League and for Lazio that means a trip to face NK Maribor away to play at the Ljudski Stadium on Thursday evening at 21.05 CET. The Slovenians showed to be decent opposition in the first game between the two teams and Lazio only managed a 1-0 win, but after the opening win against Panathinaikos things have been getting worse for them and the team is eliminated going into the sixth round of Group J.
Just as sure things are that Maribor cannot advance even through a miracle win, Lazio are sure to progress to the next round of the EL. The Italians should have grabbed three points rather than one against Tottenham in the previous round to secure first spot and a slightly more favourable draw for the knock-out phase, so the game does hold some significance despite Lazio having qualified.
A win will secure top spot, while a draw or a loss would leave the outcome of the group up to the clash between the Greeks and the Englishmen. Petkovic, as always, communicates that Lazio will take the game seriously and will be fielding the best available eleven, so expect some of the more used players to rest ahead of Bologna and Inter.
The Slovenians might have crashed out, but have promised their fans a good display against what they consider top class opposition. In the domestic league the side is simply outstanding, with nine points between them and the second place team and one game at hand. Maribor will surely represent Slovenia in Europe next year as well and for the young side the experience will be useful for future development.
Speaking of development, it is definitely so that the side has developed in the last decade or so. In 1999 Lazio won by 4-0, a result that is far from the tight 1-0 win secured in one of very few Ederson moments this season. There is one opponent as serious as Maribor to take into account this time around as well though, with the weather dropping to zero degrees Celsius Lazio will surely suffer more than the home side.
Marchetti remains sidelined, Klose and Konko are not fully fit and Biava is fatigued to an extreme, and all are added to the usual absentees. Petkovic’s biggest headache is probably to choose between Kozak and Floccari at the attacking top and if he is to follow the advice of the Lazioland.com forum poll it is the latter that should be chosen. Latest reports indicate he will field both though and switch to a more traditional 4-4-2, introducing Onazi and Ederson in midfield and relying on Scaloni and Cana in defence – all changes from the 2-1 win against Parma on Sunday.
Maribor: Handanovic, Filipovic, Rajcevic, Trajkovski, Potokar, Arghus, Milec, Ibraimi, Merteij, Tavares, Beric.
Lazio: Bizzarri, Scaloni, Cana, Ciani, Cavanda, Ederson, Ledesma, Onazi, Lulic, Floccari, Kozak.