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Europa League PREVIEW: SS Lazio vs St Étienne (1/10/15)

Lee Davey assesses Les Verts chances against tricky Italian opposition as they look to add to the point they picked up during matchday one.

Christophe Galtier will be hoping his Saint Etienne side can quickly banish the memories of Sunday 4-1 home mauling at the hands of OGC Nice.

It does not get any easier for Les Verts with arguably their toughest fixture in the group at Lazio on Thursday evening. This is the first ever meeting between the two sides in European competition and St Etienne will want to build on the point gained in the opening game after an entertaining 2-2 draw at home to Rosenborg. A win in the Stadio Olimpico would go a long way to rebuilding any confidence lost last Sunday night.

Galtier’s men have not won a game in this competition since it was revamped in 2009 and it will take a huge team effort on Thursday to change that statistic. St Etienne have never won in Italy, worse still, they have not even managed a goal.

St Etienne have made a good start to the season offensively with eleven goals scored so far in Ligue 1 and two in Europe.

Lazio kicked off the group with a 1-1 draw at last season’s Europa League finalists Dnipro, and will be confident of making home advantage count. All four teams in the group are currently deadlocked on one point each and with the early signs indicating that Group G will be a tight affair, both sides will welcome the opportunity to get ahead of the chasing pack early on.

Lazio, who sit in 5th position in Serie A, have the worst defensive record in the league with eleven goals conceded in just six domestic matches and Les Verts will be confident of causing the home side problems on the break.

Squad Selection and Tactics

Christophe Galtier may be tempted to shake up his squad after Sundays reverse in Ligue 1. Galtier may opt to go with the pace of the on-loan Jean-Christophe Bahebeck, to offer some support to Robert Beric in attack. Nolan Roux will be pushing for a recall after being benched for Sunday’s game.

Stefano Pioli may stick with the same team that won at Hellas Verona on Sunday in Serie A. Filip Djordjevic will want to start against a team he knows well and although the former Nantes man has only one goal to his name so far this season, Pioli may stick with the Serb for this Group D encounter.

Danger Men

Robert Beric (Saint Etienne) will be looking to kick on from his goals against Nantes and Rosenborg and cement his place in the St Etienne team. The summer signing from Rapid Vienna will offer a threat in attack against a defence that has shipped 12 goals in total this season and will be confident of adding to his tally of two so far this term.

The Slovenian could be a lone-figure up front and may have to be patient in getting his chances in front of goal. The pace of Jean-Christophe Bahebeck, if selected and the hard working Romain Hamouma and Fabien Lemoine will be key in supporting Beric.

Lucas Biglia (Lazio) – The 29-year-old defensive midfielder already has two goals to his name this season and is in good form going into Thursday’s game. The Argentinian international, will as usual be the driving force in starting most offensive situations for the Biancocelesti and will add steel to the Lazio midfield. His duel with Fabien Lemoine will be a key confrontation and could determine the outcome of the game.

Prediction

With both teams finding the net regularly this season so far, we can expect to see some fireworks on Thursday night. With a lot of attacking talent on show and pace in abundance in both attacks, this is a game that should provide good entertainment. Both sides need the points to launch their Europa League campaign and start to put some daylight between them and the rest of the pack.

With Lazio missing out on the Champions League in the qualifying rounds and Saint Etienne desperate to test themselves in Europe’s elite competition, this is the kind of test both sides will need to overcome to be successful in the Europa League and qualify for the Champions League next season.

Prediction

Lazio 2-1 Saint Etienne

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