Europa League preview with A Celtic State of Mind – Lazio under the lights

ALAN MORRISON:

The European odyssey continues with the glamour of Serie A Lazio visiting Glasgow. Although they are the current Italian Cup holders, the Rome-based club are not serial winners with just 2 titles and 7 cups in 119 years.

They spent over €22m in the summer to build on last season’s Cup success. Yet, despite European football being the reward, they do not appear to be prioritising the Europa League campaign. Changing line-ups have characterised their efforts so far. That is not to say their star names won’t appear. Both Milinkovic-Savic and Immobile scored in the home win over Rennes. Immobile is their biggest goal threat with 10 in the current season.

Whilst they may shuffle the squad, and the line-up may not be optimally configured, the Romans will still present a stiff challenge. Goalkeeper Strakosha and defender Ascerbi have both played in all matches, for example.

Their fans may share the perceived prioritisation. Just over 13,000 attended
the defeat of Rennes compared to 50,000 for the Rome derby. Attendances between 20 and 30 thousand are more normal. Don’t expect many travelling Biancocelesti.

Defeat in Cluj should not make Celtic over confident as we have had our own misfortunes against that opponent. More generally, Lazio have not won since the opening league game – a 3-0 thumping of Sampdoria in Genoa. Four subsequent road trips have yielded three defeats and a draw at Bologna.

Their last outing saw an incredible recovery from 0-3 to get a point at home to Champions League Atalanta. This speaks to some resilience but hopefully required significant effort. Sunday’s tie with Fiorentina, with whom they are level on points just outside the European qualifying spots, may preoccupy.

As for Celtic, the group has started strongly with an away point banked. There won’t be much shuffling of the pack by Lennon and Christie returns, refreshed.

FansBet prediction:

If Celtic recreate the patterns from Saturday, I’d expect a 2-1 home win with Christie to score.

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MARTIN DONALDSON:

Celtic welcome Lazio to Paradise for the third round of ties in Group E of the Europa League. A whirlwind attacking performance against Ross County last weekend was a welcome return to free-flowing football for The Hoops, but that ethos may have to take a back seat when the Italian Cup holders take the field on Thursday evening.
 
This encounter probably represents the glamour match (certainly at home) that most fans were looking forward to when the draw was made and the Lazio fans will certainly make themselves heard amongst the near sell-out crowd. The eyes and ears of the media, however, will be on the travelling support following the sanctions passed by UEFA earlier this month that means the return match in Rome will be played in front of a reduced capacity.
 
I expect Neil Lennon to make some tactical changes to the team that demolished the Staggies at the weekend, this could mean Frimpong and Rogic may have to settle for a place on the bench to allow for a more solidly defensive line-up. The link-up play displayed by our front four on Saturday will be crucial in unlocking the visitor’s defence in what is sure to be a noisy night under the lights at Celtic Park.

FansBet prediction:

Edouard to score first in a 2-0 win.

KEVIN GRAHAM:

I’m loving how Neil Lennon talks about Celtic Park under the lights. He gives those nights the special reverence they deserve. As we slip away from the European pack, it’s the only thing we have left. The only thing we can use to our advantage and even then it can work against us. Teams love playing here. The better teams, who don’t let emotions get in the way of their talent, use it as inhaler shot in games where they are expected to mundanely win. The teams with lesser talent can crumble, our own team can wilt under the expectation.

SS Lazio have already been turned over in Cluj. Cluj are not a better side than us and this gives us hope, false or not, that if we bring it to the superior Italians on the night then we could get a result. You would still suggest that we would need no failures on the night and the Italians to mirror their country’s comrades’ indifferent European form – Juventus apart – this season.

We all hope for a frantic start which puts the Italians on the back foot and an early goal to build the confidence. Our press is going to be important with Ryan Christie a big figure in this.

FansBet prediction:

I’m going for Celtic to win 2-0 with Christopher Jullien scoring.      

KEVIN O’ROURKE:

So it’s on to matchday 3 in this season’s Europa League campaign with Serie A side Lazio the next visitors to the east end of Glasgow.

Many people’s tip to top the group currently sit third in the table with three points having had one loss and one win in the group so far.

In star striker Immobile, they have a player who can cause any team problems. He has scored 7 goals in 7 games in Italy and is top scorer in the league, currently above Cristiano Ronaldo.

Having started the group well – winning our last home game against Cluj and to put us top of the group on four points – Celtic will be keen to build on an impressive start to the campaign with home games being key to any chance of getting out the group.

The team will be full of confidence having moved back to the top of the league and scoring goals for fun at the weekend but this will be a tough test against the Italian side.

FansBet prediction:

Another raucous night in paradise awaits in the game that will be close, but I fancy Celtic to edge it with a 2-1 win with Edouard and Forrest scoring.

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