It has been a few days of pure happiness for everyone and everything revolving around Lazio since Sunday. After five straight derby defeats, and an anxious build up to the most recent, Lazio managed to beat Roma in the best of ways with a win being secured only seconds before the end of the game. Tomorrow the team has to have recharged the batteries and switched the focus from Rome and domestic football to Zurich and Europa League.
The start of the season was a weak one for Edy Reja’s men, and out of the two games in the European competition so far Lazio has only picked up one point. The opponent for the game, FC Zurich of Switzerland, has also only managed one draw in the two opening games and more than one might reflect over initially is at stake for this game. A win for any of the two teams would mean they have a good position before the group stage enters its second phase with the return legs being played from next round, while a loss would make things look very dark in the Europa League sky.
Edy Reja has communicated that many changes will take place for this game as compared to the derby, something that is probably needed after the massive win on Sunday. Some players need rest, while others need to get some playing time. In goal Bizzarri, who had been replaced by Marchetti for the first two games of the EL despite being named the cup-goalie earlier in the season, will try to keep a clean sheet. In the latest training session Konko was rested while Lulic and Radu played on a wing each, with Diakite and Dias partnering in the middle. The use of the 4-2-3-1 formation was manifested with the inclusion of Cana, Matuzalem, Sculli, Gonzalez and Sculli slightly behind a centrally positioned Cisse. Lazio will aim at travelling to Switzerland in order to take all three points home, and Reja thinks he can do this best by guaranteeing that Lazio owns the midfield. The team is experienced enough, despite leaving as many as six of the starters in the derby out for this one, and should be able to bring their game to Zurich and travel back with a positive result.
The Swiss runner-ups have, just as stated above, had an equally weak start to the European adventure as Lazio. In contrast to the visitors though, who have picked up the pieces and lay only one point behind league leaders Juventus and Udinese in the domestic league, FC Zurich is trailing in Swiss Super League and are eighth in the standings out of only ten teams. The last game for Zurich in the league also happened to be the tense derby against city rivals Grasshopers, and just like the nweaker part of Rome, FC Zurich lost to Grasshopers 2-1.
In the home team most of the game is built around Swedish playmaker Dusan Djuric. Djuric’s ability to find the strikers in good positions, something that the 14 assists of last season witness, was very much what brought the team to the second place finish of last year. Unfortunately for the home team the player has been out injured lately, and the team has come to suffer because of this. Having to feature in both domestic and international football has shown to be a little too much for the team though, and as things stand at the moment Zurich have to develop in all areas of the pitch.
Lazio is expected to win this game, but it is two teams with large problems in European competition that face each other on Thursday. Lazio has never won a game on Swiss soil, while FC Zurich have four straight games with no wins and has only managed to score two goals in their last five home games. Lazio has only beat Rabotnicki away in the last four away games, having lost the other three, while FC Zurich ended a three match running losing streak in Europe by drawing Vaslui the last round.
Both teams coming from derby games, where Lazio managed to overcome their rivals while Zurich failed at doing so, might be exactly what pushes this game towards Lazio this round. Both teams are yet to impress in the competition, and with Vaslui and Sporting Lisbon facing each other at the same time, the winner of the clash at Leitzgrund will create a much brighter situation for themselves for the rest of the competition.
FC Zurich: Leoni, Koch, Koch, Avelino, Rodriguez, Schönbächler, Aegerter, Zouaghi, Nikci, Mehmedi, Chermiti.
Lazio: Bizzarri, Lulic, Diakite, Dias, Radu, Cana, Matuzalem, Gonzalez, Hernanes, Sculli, Cisse.