Only 16 teams remain in the Europa League, with Lazio and Stuttgart both hoping to advance into the quarter finals in order to gain some confidence back, in a campaign where both teams have bumped into problems in their respective domestic leagues. The 19.00 clash between the two sides at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Stuttgart is the first of two games that are to be played within a week’s time between the sides and both clubs are looking to advance also into the next round.
Looking at our own Lazio there are both positives and negatives to comment. Starting with the clouds, Lazio are in a horrible overall form with only two wins in the last nine competitive games in Europa League and Serie A combined. 2-0 against Pescara and 2-0 against Borussia Mönchengladbach are the wins, while the other seven games have ended in losses or draws. If trying to view things positively ahead of the game one has to focus on the results in the Europa League, where Lazio are unbeaten in the ten games played so far this season, collecting six wins and four draws in the process.
For Stuttgart it is all about getting a good result at home to build on when the team later travels to Rome. Stuttgart have had an awful home form this season in Europa League with three draws and one loss in the four games played in the main tournament. On the other hand the team has won three out of the four games on the road, inviting to an extremely interesting tie as Lazio are not only unbeaten at home, but have only conceded one goal in the five games played in Rome so far.
Both sides come from defeats in the league. Lazio were again subject of a poor display in the league with another 3-0 loss, this time against a Milan side that overtook the third position in the league in the process. Stuttgart had managed to take the lead through an Ibisevic penalty against Bayer Leverkusen in Bundesliga, but saw their faith turned with two quick goals from the third placed team in Germany. Currently in eleventh position the season has been far from as convincing as many had foreseen before the start of the season.
For the followers of Lazio the season started off brilliantly, but in recent months it has become harder and harder to know what to expect from Petkovic’s team. Awful displays are mixed with better ones, but overall it is no exaggeration to say that the offensive game is lacking in quality while the defence has conceded far too easily recently with 13 goals in seven games in the league and three in the away game to Borussia Mönchengladbach as clear signs of a lack in coherence.
By still being close to the Champions League spots in the league, a final in the Coppa Italia to look forward to as well as challenging for the Europa League trophy Lazio still have everything to play for. The team needs to become more consistent though and the dip in form has to come to an end sooner rather than later.
On a different note, and not so much dealing with the actions on the pitch but rather in the stands, UEFA decided that the return game as well as the next game Lazio would play at home in European competitions would be held without any spectators in the stands. Added to that was a fine of 40.000 Euro. Lotito reacted angrily to the collective punishment issued by UEFA because of a few hundred fans giving signs of “racial behaviour” as it was labelled by the organisation and has filed a complaint that will be decided upon during Wednesday. If the punishment would stand it would mean the return leg being played in an empty Stadio Olimpico, something that also the Germans are hoping will be overruled as they have shown great strength away from home and in front of their travelling fans.
Possible line ups to be added later