Edy Reja has revealed his fondness for midweek opponent Diego Simeone and also the points total he believes Lazio needs for Champions League football.
After progressing through the group stages of the Europa League this season, Reja’s Biancocelesti welcome Simeone’s Atletico side to the Olimpico for the first leg of their Second Round fixture this week.
It is a return to Rome for Simeone, who spent four years with Lazio a decade back.
“Simeone was a reference point - I have in common with him a motivational charge,” reflected Reja in his Press conference on Monday.
“He was a player with great character and personality and he is proving the same as a Coach.
“Since his arrival they have played six games and conceded no goals. He has given this charge to the team that does not spare itself and has valuable players like [Joao] Miranda and Diego.”
Despite this, Reja is targeting progression to the next round.
“We will have to play with the right attitude. We believe in the Europa League and we will progress as far as possible. I hope to recover players like [Stefan] Radu and [Senad] Lulic, or call some from the primavera, who are playing very well at the Viareggio tournament.”
Reja’s men go into the midweek fixture in good spirits off the back of a come-from-behind League win on Thursday night at home to Cesena. With Udinese and Inter losing, the Aquile sit in third place.
“The embrace of the fans was touching. This team has great character and a great spirit for sacrifice, it is a group to love. It is in its DNA to want to do well.
“It is a team that is constantly improving and since I arrived, is taking points enough to qualify for the Champions League.
“68 points should be enough for the Champions League, it will be hard but we will try. Inter? I did not expect their defeat. Udinese? Losing players like [Antonio] Di Natale and [Mauricio] Isla may affect the performance of the team.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition  - £5,000 monthly.