Monday Jun 18, 2018  
  25/08/2015: Preview: Bayer Leverkusen - Lazio
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Lazio head to Germany to take on Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday for the second leg of their Champions League final play-off. Lazio enter this match with a narrow lead, as they emerged victorious a week ago by a score of 1-0 in Rome. Lazio will be entering this match with several injury concerns as it appears that Klose and Djordjevic will be unavailable up front, the weight will likely fall on Keita once again to press the Leverkusen back line. Keita’s speed and strength must be used adequately, he is the key to open up the Leverkusen defence, his strength and speed can catch Tah off-guard and force the Leverkusen defence on their heels. Marchetti also looks doubtful to start in goal for Lazio so we should once again see Berisha pick up the start, he has been playing well for the Biancocelesti. Perhaps of greater concern for Lazio is that newly crowned captain, Lucas Biglia, will be sidelined for up to a month with a calf contusion picked up against Bologna on Saturday.

It will likely be Onazi or Cataldi called on to replace him and they will need to do so admirably. Milinkovic-Savic could also once again pick up some minutes in midfield for Lazio, he has not had a great start in the sky blue jersey and he is two for two on appearances versus yellow card bookings, his erratic challenges must be curbed, it will undoubtedly take him some time to fit into the team, and he is more than capable, but he must adapt quickly. Lazio cannot afford to sit back and let the match come to them, as a group they must press Leverkusen and look to exploit a weakness, as few as there will be.

The first leg of this fixture was a hard fought affair, it was a match played at a high tempo and all players had to cover many miles. With this in mind, Wednesday will be no different, spaces will close rapidly, pressure will come quickly and counter attacks will only be successful if executed to perfection. Felipe Anderson did not feature in the Bologna match this past weekend in Serie A until close to the 80th minute, his legs should be fresh and it will be his creativity that will be counted on in order for Lazio to seek the coveted away goal. Leverkusen have a relatively fit squad for this tie and only look to be without defender Tim Jedvaj. Leverkusen have won both their first two matches in the Bundesliga and will be looking to put things right against Lazio in order to return to the Champions League.

Pioli will need to have his men grounded and completely focused on this match; there can be no letting up for the entire ninety minutes of play. Perhaps Lazio may have been slightly looking ahead to this match on Saturday against Bologna, after going up 2-0 early in the first half, Lazio seemed to put things in cruise control, a mistake which could have cost them dearly. Roger Schmidt has his men believing that they can still emerge victorious and that there is still everything to play for; Lazio must also have this mindset. This is arguably the most important match that Lazio will play this season, it will change the course of direction that the team will take, Champions League revenues are more substantial, should Lazio progress we may expect to see a keynote signing before the transfer deadline is done. This is an exciting time for all Laziali and we will be supporting our beloved squad with pride on Wednesday against Leverkusen.
Author: Michael Petricca
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