Spurs v Lazio: A new opponent for Tottenham, but with some familiar faces
Europa League: The lowdown on Lazio as Andre Villas-Boas’s Lilywhites prepare to host the Italians at White Hart Lane.
Tottenham will lock horns with Lazio for the first time tonight as the Italians travel to White Hart Lane.
Like Spurs, the Aquile [meaning ‘the Eagles’] finished fourth in Serie A last season, just two points off third place – and, like Spurs, that was not quite enough to earn them a spot in the Champions League.
The similarities between the clubs continued during the summer as Lazio changed their manager, although the circumstances were rather different as Edoardo Reja quit his post.
He has been replaced by the Bosnian Vladimir Petkovic, who was in charge of Young Boys of Bern when Harry Redknapp’s Spurs beat the Swiss side in a memorable Champions League play-off round in 2010.
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Unlike Andre Villas-Boas, Petkovic has had a dream start to life at his new club, winning all five of his games so far.
Lazio triumphed in both legs of their Europa League qualifier against Slovenian outfit Mura Murka, and they also have a 100 per cent record in Serie A after overcoming Atalanta, Palermo and Chievo.
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That leaves them level on points with the leaders Juventus and Napoli – just one goal away from top spot on goal difference.
Germany international Miroslav Klose is in good form, having scored three times in his last two games, and the Brazilian midfielder Hernanes has struck three times in the three league games.
Klose scored his 64th goal for his country at Euro 2012, leaving him just four behind the all-time record of 1970s icon Gerd Mueller – and he recently claimed that he could have joined Spurs during the summer.
“Tottenham came looking for me but I signed for Lazio until 2014 and I intend to respect that contract,” said the 34-year-old forward.
Andre Villas-Boas responded: “The player had been offered to us by the usual round of agents, but there was never any real negotiation.”
Lazio and Spurs may not have crossed swords before, but Lionel Scaloni and Mauro Zarate faced the Lilywhites during their spells in the Premier League with West Ham and Birmingham respectively – and Lorik Cana spent the 2009/10 season at Sunderland.
Midfielder Ederson will be reunited with Hugo Lloris after their time together at Nice, while Michael Ciani and the injured Younes Kaboul were team-mates at Auxerre.
This is Lazio’s fourth attempt at the Europa League group stage, and they failed to qualify on the first two occasions before finally achieving that feat last season, reaching the last 32 but then losing to the eventual champions Atletico Madrid.
Spurs fans will be pleased to hear that the Italians have failed to win any of their last seven games against English clubs, dating back to a 2-1 win at Chelsea in the 1999/2000 Champions League.
However, Tottenham have only won two of their last six European home games – and it was a shock defeat against Greek side PAOK at White Hart Lane which did the damage last season as they failed to make it out of their group and were eliminated before Christmas.