Lazio play once more with the knife to the throat. Last round it was FC Zurich that simply had to be beaten to keep the hopes of advancing up, but as Vaslui managed to get the full three points against Sporting Lisbon the game on Thursday turned into the decider. Vaslui managed a draw at Stadio Olimpico and Lazio will have to win the game in Romania if the team wants to continue their European adventure later this season.
Two tough games have been played since the international break a fortnight ago, and with Lazio not managing to score in either the away game to Napoli or at home to Juventus, many of the questions directed to Reja have been around who and how he will field the players. With the Serie A round moved to Monday for the biancocelesti the possibility to field the strongest eleven without having to think too closely about resting players is possible, but how the coach decides to organize his team remains to be seen.
The Romanians have impressed result-wise in the Europa League, and with the recent win and the draw against Lazio in Rome they have a great chance of advancing to the next round. Should they beat the visitors it is all over, but also with a 0-0 or 1-1 draw they will find themselves in the knock-out stage of the competition. It is a “winner takes it all” match, where a victory guarantees whichever team that wins a continued spell in Europe. The loser will have only the domestic games left to focus on.
Vaslui coach Hizo will have to feature a team without one of their more prolific players, as Wesley Lopes have received one too many yellow cards so far in the competition. The double goal scorer will be missed, but Vaslui have shown they have enough quality in the team to still be a force and Lazio will have to travel with the right mindset if they want to come back with a win. Despite playing the European home games more than 100 km away from home this season, in Piatra Neamt, the Romanians have not lost any of the ten games played in UEFA-competition since they made their debut back in 2008. In order words, Lazio have to be at their very best to get the desired result on Thursday.
In the Italian capital most of the talk is circulating the game against Juventus on Saturday, which saw Lazio narrowly lose to the league leaders. Slowly the focus is changing to the Europa League game, and mostly it is Cisse’s current (lack of) form that is being debated. If the Frenchman will be starting remains to be seen, but the last goal that came from the forward was against Vaslui, of the penalty spot and gave Lazio the 1-0 lead at that time. Also the inclusion or exclusion of the other scorer for Lazio in that game, the point saving Sculli, is being discussed and Reja insists he is still to make a decision on the choices.
There is another trend that has to be broken by Lazio on Thursday evening. In the last five away games in European competition Lazio has lost three, and only managed to win one game – the one against Rabotnicki in the qualifying round. Many have been looking back at another crucial game that was played on Romanian soil, the game against Dinamo Bucuresti back in the 2007/2008 season. Lazio had been held to a 1-1 draw in Rome, and in a similar situation to the one in the upcoming game where a win is desperately needed, the Italians managed to beat the opponents with 3-1. If the capital outfit intends to repeat this the team has to start scoring again.
Vaslui: Cerniauskas, Milisavljevici, Farkas, Papp, Jovanovic, Luz, Costin, Sanmartean, Zmeu, Adailton, Temwanjera.
Lazio: Marchetti, Konko, Diakite, Biava, Radu, Gonzalez, Ledesma, Lulic, Hernanes, Cisse, Klose.