Even though Lazio have sealed qualification for the knockout stages of the Europa League, Jerry Mancini believes that the game against Galatasaray is significant.
It has been a rollercoaster season for Lazio, who have seen their fair share of ups and downs in the Serie A and Europa League. This past summer, ex-manager, Simone Inzaghi, left after five seasons with Lazio to join Inter after his contract had expired. The club made a bold decision to hire Maurizio Sarri as his replacement and it has been a modest first season for him with the Biancocelesti.
This current campaign was expected to be a transition under Sarri as the club has switched from the 3-5-2 formation to the 4-3-3. New tactics, philosophy and style of play has been integrated with players still needing to time to adapt and adjust as well.
There have been positive results this season as Lazio have defeated Roma and Inter, yet they have suffered defeats to mid-table clubs Hellas Verona and Bologna. This team continues to find its identity under Sarri as it will be a work in progress with the Italian.
The Scudetto race is tight as Milan, Inter, Napoli and Atalanta are separated by four points. As these clubs have been more consistent compared to Lazio, it will be difficult for the Biancocelesti to remain in contention for the fourth spot in the Serie A standings. Lazio currently sit in eighth place in the Serie A and trail Atalanta by nine points, who occupy the final spot into the Champions League.
Lazio’s best chance at qualifying for the Champions League next season is, preferably, via the Europa League. Their form in this competition has been opposite from Serie A as they have won two matches, tied two and lost one. In their five Europa League matches, they have earned three clean sheets and have been much better defensively.
Sarri’s past experience has played a key role as he’s won this tournament with Chelsea back in 2019 and the Italian has a good understanding of what it takes to win the Europa League and will definitely have his side mentally prepared.
A win over Galatasaray is a must for Lazio.
If Lazio are to win, they would automatically advance to the Round of 16. If they’re to finish second in their group, they would play an additional two matches in the Round of 32 versus a Champions League side that has dropped to the Europa League after finishing third in their group.
There are certain players on this team who have played significant minutes this season and have been dealing with ailments. If they’re to advance to the Round of 16, this allows additional time for key players such as Ciro Immobile, Felipe Anderson and Pedro to heal and rest.
While advancing further for Lazio is the main goal, one player who will be looking to redeem himself is Thomas Strakosha. Earlier this season, when these two teams met, the Lazio goalkeeper made a disastrous mistake in handling the ball which led to an own goal for Lazio. The result was a 1-0 loss – their only defeat in the group stage.
Strakosha made his first league start this past weekend and rewarded Sarri with a phenomenal performance versus Sampdoria. Aside from his mistake, he has been exceptional in the Europa League and will look to redeem himself in front of the fans at the Stadio Olimpico with another strong performance.
This match will not be easy for Lazio as they may need to win it without Immobile. He suffered an injury in their recent match versus Sampdoria and his status has been listed as questionable. The Biancocelesti have struggled and had lackluster performances without their captain this season. Most importantly, the offense has been nonexistent without Immobile. In two matches without Immobile this season, they have scored zero goals.
In one of their most important games to date, this team needs to be mentally prepared and adapt to scoring without one of their integral players. Lazio has become dependent on Immobile and this needs to change in order for them to be successful and win more matches. Additionally, the fans could provide that spark and momentum for Lazio, which has been the case in their victories this season.
Galatasaray will not be an easy opponent as their form in the Super Lig has been mediocre and they will be aiming to advance into the Round of 16 as well. With plenty at stake and both clubs eyeing the same prize, expect an exhilarating match between the two sides.