After last weekend’s defeat away to AC Milan, Lazio went in search of European success as they travelled to Germany to face VfB Stuttgart on Thursday. Without too much to say regarding the thrashing at the hands of the Rossoneri , confidence had been hit and not many would have bet on the Biancoceleste taking anything away from The Mercedes Benz Arena midweek.
With Stefano Mauri still sidelined through injury, Lazio coach Vladmir ‘the Doctor’ Petkovic surprised many by opting to leave out Christian Ledesma and Alvaro Gonzalez before-hand. Ederson was placed back into the line-up after injury, along with Nigerian youngster Eddy Onazi.
It was a brave decision by the coach to make such drastic changes considering what a big occasion for the club it was. However, the pair made their presence known through-out with some wonderful passages of play.
Ederson opened the scoring for Lazio in the 20th minute with a splendid strike, and the away team never really looked troubled going into the half-time break. As Stuttgart started to press for an equaliser in the second-half, Lazio were exploiting gaps left open at the back. Onazi broke through on 56 minutes to double Lazio’s lead and cap a great performance from the youngster.
Lazio saw the match through with great professionalism and superiority considering recent form. With a crucial league encounter at home to Fiorentina on Sunday evening, Petkovic was very brave by rotating largely with five new players on the pitch compared to the team that started away to Milan last Saturday, and compliments must be made to the Bosnian tactician.
Before facing Stuttgart, Federico Marchetti was quick to quash any talk of a crisis brewing. “Don’t forget it is only us and Inter who are competing in three tournaments at this stage, so it’s laughable when papers try to say Lazio are ‘in crisis.’ Luck hasn’t been on our side as much recently and we have made some mistakes, but we are working on it. Lazio hadn’t progressed to the last 16 of Europe for many years, so it’s already an achievement to be here.”
To say Lazio are in a crisis is quite baffling. The primary season objective was made very clear prior to the start of the campaign, Champions League qualification. With the appointment of Petkovic pre-season, many expected this term to be a transitional one. Reaching the Coppa Italia Final, the last sixteen of the Europa League, and a fourth place standing in Serie A means that those objectives are very much on course to be met, with added bonuses.
Lazio host fellow rivals Fiorentina on Sunday in what could be a decisive fixture in the race for third place. It is a fixture that the Biancoceleste will be confident of winning after an impressive display in Germany. However, La Viola will have fresh legs after a week off and will be more than confident of snatching three points in Rome.
The coach is expected to revert back to his preferred 4-1-4-1 formation with Ledesma, Gonzalez and Floccari all returning to the starting eleven. An added bonus will be the return of Stefano Mauri after his recent knock. After impressing the coach in Germany, it does remain to be seen if Onazi or Ederson will feature in this match, but either way it gives Petkovic some selection headaches approaching the weekend.
With the return of Miroslav Klose not expected until at least mid-March, Floccari will be hoping of getting back to goal-scoring ways as he deputises for the German striker. Now is the time for Lazio to resume winning form in Serie A if they are to meet their season objective, and extend the gap on themselves and their chasing opponents. Consistency is key now if Lazio are to mount a sustained push for Champions League qualification.
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