Spurs vs Lazio
We kick off our Europa League campaign at home with a very tricky tie against Lazio.
The Italian outfit finished fifth in Serie A last season and have already begun the Scudetto with three straight wins under new manager Vladimir Petkovic. He was in charge of Young Boys, rememeber them, who we faced in our Champions League Qualifier a couple of seasons ago. The Swiss outfit gave us quite a scare, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first leg, before succumbing 6-3 on aggregate.
After knocking out his side back then and going on a run all the way to the Bernabeu in the Champions league, maybe it is a good sign that we face Petkovic to start with once again…
Andre Villas-Boas is determined to do ‘something special‘ to endear himself to the White Hart Lane faithful and is taking the competition seriously this season.
“This competition is very important. It gives access to the European Super Cup and, for me, I always thought it was a prestigious competition and it should be promoted like that because after the Cup Winners’ Cup disappeared, it is not only about the Champions League.”
So what can we expect on White Hart Lane’s first Europa League night of the season?
Here are my 5 keys to Spurs vs Lazio.
Andre Villas-Boas is trying to turn Spurs in to a possession team who can dictate the tempo. He had Chelsea as the side enjoying the most of the ball in the Premier League in his time in charge there and he wants to do the same with Spurs.
So far this season, we have enjoyed 58% possession in our four matches, but a key part of this is ball retention. That means completing passes successfully and accurately, which we’ve done. Through our first four matches, we’ve completed 85% of our passes, which is a key factor in dictating the play.
It won’t be all one-way traffic though, Lazio also enjoy the ball and have registered 51% possession in their three Serie A matches so far. This sees them as the eighth best team at keeping the ball in the Italian top-flight.
This figure would probably be higher if they were more accurate with their passing. So far they haven’t been quite as confident in possession, completing 80% of their passes.
Spurs would appear to have the edge, but they will face a strong defence that has conceded just once, frequently intercepting the ball and being strong tacklers. It’s no coincidence that only four teams have conceded less shots on goal than Lazio in Serie A so far this season.
2. Stopping Hernanes, Klose and Candreva
After being linked with Miroslav Klose and Hernanes, we’re going to have to be wary they don’t come back to haunt us on Thursday night. The pair are extremely dangerous, Hernanes likes a shot from distance, as Chievo found out at the weekend, whereas the German is a renowned fox in the box.
Lazio play a 4-1-4-1 system whereby the German leads the line on his own and Hernanes plays off of him.
If we look at Lazio’s match with Chievo at the weekend, we can see how Miroslav Klose gets his touches of the ball in central areas, but also drops off deeper, especially to the left side.
As for Hernanes, he is busy right across the whole pitch as he looks to drop in between the lines of midfield and defence, breaking through in the channels.
The pair scored all of Lazio’s three goals against Chievo, with Klose picking up one inside the area and Hernanes striking from distance and popping in from close range.
It’s not just these two we have to beware of; Antonio Candreva is also a threat who switches wings. He likes to get in advance of Klose when the German comes deeper and also leads the team with two chance creating passes per match.
Hernanes, Klose and Candreva are all major threats to Spurs putting three points on the Europa League board Thursday night.
3. Spurs’ left, Lazio’s right
Spurs’ left side will be where the battle is won or lost. Lazio are a team that heavily favours attacking down this flank and without first choice left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto, the men from Rome are sure to target Kyle Naughton.
Vladimir Petkovic has sent his team out to focus on this flank through Antonio Candreva. So far they have launched 42% of their attacks down this side, compared to just 29% down the left and 29% through the middle this season according to WhoScored.com.
Candreva is a big threat in not only his chance creation, but also his shooting where he is taking 3 shots per game so far this season.
Kyle Naughton showed some promising signs against Reading at the weekend, but was susceptible to being beaten off of the dribble by Garath McCleary. Antonio Candreva also likes to run with the ball, averaging 2 successful dribbles per match in Serie A this season, so Naughton has to be aware of this.
4. Lazio long balls
Lazio currently lead Serie A in long balls played per match with 74 attempted per game. Cristian Ledesma is the chief instigator with 8.3 played per match so far this season as he looks to put the ball in to Miroslav Klose. Alvaro Gonzalez is also a threat to go long from the centre of midfield, as is centre back Andre Dias.
The Spurs defence will need to be aware of this tactic, especially if they are pushing up trying to play a high line, as they will be susceptible to the ball over the top.
Hugo Lloris may be a better choice in net to act as a sweeper keeper, to clear any danger with Brad Friedel’s tendency to stay in his goal.
5. Spurs vs Lazio shots in the box
Prior to the Reading game, we were attempting only 33% of our shots inside the box. Against the Royals, we were able to get 57% of our shots away inside the area and we scored 3 goals.
Lazio are a team that likes to shoot from distance having taken 52% of their shots from outside the box, especially from the boot of Hernanes. Spurs are the opposite and need to get a high percentage of efforts at the target from in the area.
This won’t be easy as Lazio have a solid defence, as mentioned earlier they’re the fourth best in Serie A for shots per game conceded. Opportunities will be few and far between, but Spurs will have to take them when they arrive.
Spurs vs Lazio conclusion
Spurs vs Lazio is gong to be a tight match, but an exciting way to kick-off our Europa League campaign this season.
We really have to be aware of the movement of Miroslav Klose combined with the passing and long range shooting and of Hernanes. Antonio Candreva is also a threat supplying crosses and chances from the right.
Spurs will have to keep up their accurate passing in order to retain the ball and dictate the tempo of the game.
Spurs v Lazio match prediction: Spurs 1 Lazio 1