Tuesday Aug 22, 2017  
     
 
  16/08/2015: Preview: Lazio - Bayer Leverkusen
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Lazio host Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday August 18th at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome for the first leg of the final Champion’s League playoff round. The goal aggregate winner of the two legged tie will be granted direct access into the group stage of the Champion’s League, the loser will be granted access into the Europa League. Lazio are coming off somewhat of a disappointing Supercoppa Italia loss to Juventus in Shanghai and are looking to return to their winning ways against a solid German opponent in Bayer 04. In their three friendly fixtures leading up to the Suppercoppa, Lazio also suffered defeats to Vicenza, Anderlecht and Mainz. Lazio have had some notable additions to the squad over the summer mercato thus far, some will have their chance to shine during these two matches, others may have to wait their turn, as Pioli is likely to field the familiar faces of the Lazio squad that guided them to third place in their 2014-2015 Serie A campaign.

Bayer Leverkusen are a formidable foe and Lazio will need to execute both matches to perfection if they hope to reach the Champions League. Bayer is well coached by Schmidt and is a unified and deep squad that is used to playing at the highest level in Europe. Currently, Bayer sit 19th in the UEFA club coefficient rankings on 72 points, Lazio are fourteen spots adrift in 33rd place, sitting on 47 points, the presence of European football this season should help Lazio’s ranking. Bayer are tactically sound and possess a great amount of speed, Schmidt will test Lazio by attacking from wide positions in an attempt to catch them off guard by opening up gaps in the back line. Lazio will need to play in a unified manner, when an offensive opportunity is not made the most of, all Lazio personnel must make a conscious effort to get back on the defensive side of the ball, if they do not Bayer will make them pay, they are capable of making the most of a small opportunity and will exploit every chance they are given. Bayer are a confident side and Schmidt has his men believing that they will emerge from this tie against Lazio victorious.

With Lazio holding the first tie of this fixture at home, the pressure will clearly be on their shoulders and they will enter as slight underdogs. In order for Lazio to emerge victorious, they will need to leave for Germany with a victory in hand on home soil in Rome, a clean sheet is perhaps equally as important as a victory. Pioli may field his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation with Biglia and Parolo in the deeper midfield roles, this is the formation last campaign that reaped the greatest success for Lazio and is the more attacking minded formation that was not used against Juventus in the Supercoppa. If Lazio are to field this formation against Leverkusen, the three men in the more forward midfield roles will need to make a conscious effort to track back on every single occasion. This tie for Lazio against Leverkusen will test the squads resolve and belief as a unit; more importantly, it will also be a test of fitness. This is a great opportunity for Lazio to put themselves back in the limelight of Europe’s most coveted stage, all faithful Laziali will be watching in great anticipation of this long waited return.

Forza Lazio!
Author: Michael Petricca
 
 
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