In a rematch of our opening Europa League tie, we travel to Rome for Lazio vs Spurs.
This was always going to be a pivotal match as our Europa League expert opinion poll forecasted before the competition got underway. With Lazio almost qualified from group J, Spurs will be looking to take at least a point with Maribor heading to cellar-dwellers Panathinaikos.
On Match day one, Lazio were content to come to the Lane and soak up the pressure. At home this time, they should have a different approach to the game if their ties at the Stadio Olimpico with Maribor and Panathinaikos are anything to go by. So, what should be the Tottenham tactics for Lazio vs Spurs?
How will Lazio line-up?
Lazio have usually lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation in Serie A and also in their opening Europa League group games. In their 3-0 romp over Panathinaikos, they played a 4-4-2 diamond in order to get 2 strikers on the park, but that would be an aggressive tactic in this match where they only require a point to progress.
Miroslav Klose usually leads the line and should do again here, but Sergio Flocarri has deputised for the German since Klose faced us at the Lane. The Italian has started all three of Lazio’s matches since the 0-0 draw and if he plays instead of the German here, he will pose a different kind of threat.
Miroslav Klose is a wily forward who can come short and link the play, then look to get in behind down the channels. Flocarri plays with much more width as he looks to play in between the lines and be the focus for through balls played in to the area, especially against Maribor.
Klose should start and Lazio will probably look to find him with long balls over our high line from Cristian Ledesma, as well as through balls from Hernanes. If Flocarri gets the nod, then the Tottenham tactics will need to guard against his lateral movement rather than Klose’s vertical shifts.
Amount of Lazio pressure?
In the game at White Hart Lane, Lazio came to sit, soak up the pressure and hit on the counter. The Italians have had 51% possession in their Serie A matches, but in that game they only enjoyed 42% of the ball. They lightly pressured Spurs through Miroslav Klose, Stefano Mauri and Hernanes, but were more than content to get men deeper behind the ball.
At the Stadio Olimpico it has been rather different from Lazio. Against Maribor and Panathinaikos they have pressed them higher up the park, forcing turnovers.
Nowhere was this more evident than their second goal in the 3-0 win over Panathinaikos. Left back Spyropoulos was put under pressure and passed the ball straight to Lazio striker Libor Kozak who easily slotted home. This goal was conceded very much in the same mould as Kyle Naughton’s misjudged back pass against Maribor. This was one of the few times Maribor pressed us, so Spurs should beware of this happening again.
Lazio have been more aggressive at home, but the calibre of opposition hasn’t been that good, so they could afford to take chances. They showed Spurs a lot of respect at White Hart Lane, so the Lazio approach here will be interesting.
Be aware of Cristian Ledesma long balls
Lazio sit second behind AC Milan for long balls, with 68 played per match in Serie A this season.
As we saw at the Lane, Cristian Ledesma from his defensive midfield position is the instigator in chief for playing these. The Argentinean attempts 9.3 long balls per game according to WhoScored.com, as he looks to set the centre forward free.
Against us, he was looking to get his team mates in behind our high line with straight balls fired from either his own half or just inside ours. He had limited success from doing this, but fared better against Panathinaikos in Lazio’s last match where he played them more diagonally.
We won’t be able to stop Ledesma from attempting long balls, but the Tottenham tactics should have our defenders aware of his route one style.
Antonio Candreva and Hernanes
Antonio Candreva didn’t feature at White Hart Lane but the Italian should be back here to cause trouble down both flanks, but most notably the right.
Spurs have had problems with the left back slot all season since Benoit Assou-Ekotto went out injured and Lazio will have Candreva trying to expose this.
He is an attacking wide-man who can beat a player, make a cross and also shoot. His 8 crosses per game see him as a threat to create from wide, but he also likes to fire shots from the corner of the area at a rate of three per game.
Candreva is a threat from wide, but Hernanes does his work from more central areas. We were linked with a move for the Brazilian in the summer, but Lazio’s negative tactics at the Lane didn’t allow him to fully showcase his talents.
It has been that way for him through the first four matches in the Europa League. Whilst he is flying in Serie A with 5 goals and 3 assists from 3.1 shots and 2.1 chances created per match, it is a different story in Europe. Hernanes has only taken 1.3 shots at goal and created 1 chance per match in this season’s competition.
That doesn’t mean he is not still a threat to provide a through ball, or at delivering corners or set pieces as he showed against Maribor.
Lazio do concede chances
We had the ball in the net three times against Lazio at the Lane, unfortunately all three were ruled out. What they did demonstrate though, was where Lazio concede chances.
Clint Dempsey headed home from Gareth Bale’s cross in the first half and Lazio have conceded chances against Panathinaikos and Maribor from balls in to the box.
Steven Caulker had a perfectly good header ruled out, but the Italians are susceptible to corners, with Maribor and Panathinaikos also having joy from here.
Bale also squared for Jermain Defoe to hit home from an offside position, but Lazio have also been susceptible to square balls and cut backs in the box.
Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon could prove pivotal for Spurs in this match. Most of our opportunities in the first game came through these two and the Tottenham tactics should be to utilise them high up the park looking to cross for Emmanuel Adebayor.
Michael Dawson should come in for the injured Steven Caulker and with his excellent aerial ability, he will be a threat from free kicks and corners. He could well add to his goal scored in Greece against Panathinaikos.
Lazio aren’t afraid to shoot from distance
As we saw in the first leg when Alvaro Gonzalez rattled our bar, Lazio aren’t afraid to try their luck from long range. In fact in Serie A this season, Lazio take 57% of their shots from outside the box, only Pescara and Palermo (both 61%) take more.
Spurs were taking a similar amount from outside the area earlier in the season when we were struggling to score, especially in the 1-1 draws with Norwich and West Brom. Since Spurs have taken more shots inside the box, our goal scoring has increased.
With Lazio shooting such a high figure from outside the area, you would think that it should hinder their goal scoring, but they sit seventh in the Serie A goal chart with 19 scored so far.
If Hugo Lloris wasn’t aware of Lazio’s long-range efforts before the White Hart Lane encounter, he certainly would have been afterwards with the bar still rattling in his ears.
Lazio vs Spurs outlook
This will be an interesting tactical battle set out by both team’s approaches.
The Lazio formation might spring a surprise; they used a diamond formation last time out against Panathinaikos, but should revert to their usual 4-1-4-1 system here.
Cristian Ledesma will be a threat to sit and ping long balls from deep and we have to utilise our advanced midfielder to pick him quickly if we are playing with one striker.
The often talked about Hernanes will be the focal point in the centre of the park, but Antonio Candreva out wide could be the biggest threat to Tottenham getting anything in this match.
Who Andre Villas-Boas selects at left back will be key if Lazio try to expose this weakness in our defence and Gareth Bale’s lack of providing cover.
This will be a very interesting game that Spurs will need to get something from, as Maribor should leave Greece with at least a point.
Lazio vs Spurs prediction: Lazio 1 Spurs 1
Bets: Lazio 1 Spurs 1 at 5/1 with BetFred