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Monday August 10 2015
Lazio look for Leverkusen lift

A shambolic Italian Super Cup has done little for Lazio’s confidence heading into a crucial Champions League qualifier next week, says David Lee Wheatley.

Lazio travelled to the Far East seven days in advance of a daunting clash with Juventus in China, but their thorough preparation proved to be in vain as the Old Lady ran out comfortable 2-0 victors.

The Aquile suffered a fifth straight defeat following a quartet of friendly match losses in the lead-up to a showpiece event which ended in all-too predictable fashion.

On a sub-standard pitch resembling an overused rugby field, accompanied by high winds swirling around the Shanghai Stadium, the Biancocelesti came off second-best to last season’s double winners.

Stefano Pioli’s men must now wipe that latest disappointment from their minds when turning attention to a hugely important Champions League play-off tie against Bayer Leverkusen, who finished fourth in the German Bundesliga in order to qualify.

Leverkusen Coach Roger Schmidt penned a three-year deal at the end of last season on the back of several impressive performances under his leadership, which showcased his side’s aerial ability and lightning pace on the counter-attack.

Defensive midfield partnership Lars Bender – who has just been handed the club captaincy after Simon Rolfes’ retirement – and Christoph Kramer provide a solid shield in front of the back-four.

Kramer was recalled from a two-year loan at fellow Champions League participants Borussia Monchengladbach in light of Rolfes’ decision to bring down the curtain on his career at the age of 33.

The 24-year-old World Cup winner covered an outstanding 7.89 miles [12.7km] each game last year on average, as Gladbach finished one spot above Bayer, while 86 per cent of his overall passes found their intended target.

Other names to keep an eye on include high-scoring wingers Karim Bellarabi and Heung-Min Son, plus experienced striker Stefan Kiessling, who were responsible for 32 League strikes between them last term.

Sporting director Rudi Voller is a former Roma striker and also briefly Coach of the Giallorossi, thus adding extra spice to the contest.

Meanwhile, speculation surrounding the future of Lazio’s newly-appointed captain Lucas Biglia rumbles along in the background, with Manchester United and Real Madrid reportedly leading the chase for his signature.

That unwelcome disruption, allied to a run of poor results in pre-season, threatens to throw Lazio’s campaign into chaos before it has begun in earnest.

And facing a powerful, well-drilled outfit such as Bayer Leverkusen represents just about the toughest task they could’ve faced at this point.

Have your say...
It is so depressing to see that 3rd UEFA champions league spot wasted. Lazio are no where to make a decent run in CL, heck they will even be beaten by BL and won't make to group stage. That will lower Serie A's European coefficient and further degrade the league.
I just hope the Milan teams come back to their prominence and along with Roma and Juve brings Serie A some dignity.
on the 12th August, 2015 at 9:06pm
Whoever objectively watched Supercoppa final knew that Lazio played at par with Juve. The only thing Lazio lacked in that match was the score. All the Juve's goals came after some technical error from Anderson and Onazi. Considering how Milan teams are building their teams now, Lazio will continue from where they stopped last year as they didn't change a lot. I hope Lotito will not make a mistake to let go of Keita as the lad is determined to become Lazio's future.
on the 12th August, 2015 at 5:16pm
@dSquib, playing a league is very very different from a one-off. Lazio may have somehow finished third thanks to their rivals slowing down, but they're still a garbage team. They're not better than any other team that finished lower than them. Bayer is gonna demolish them. Not only is Bayer much better than Lazio, they're also farther in their preparation for the new season.
on the 11th August, 2015 at 2:08pm
Lazio are a good team who've had a poor pre-season and unless these other commenters support Juve or Roma they are better than whoever they support.

Speculation over Candreva and Biglia doesn't help. Pioli has tended to get things right for them when it matters.

Bayer are defensively weak and very beatable.
on the 10th August, 2015 at 8:43pm
if lazio could show the grit and skill showed to get 3rd place last season they could well stand a decent of making the group stages. after seeing their pre season losing against juve mainz anderlecht vincenza it would seem that they could well follow samp napoli and udin into failing to qualify for the group stages. As mentioned leverkusen are no pushovers the likes of calhanoglu unmentioned by the article are world class players.
on the 10th August, 2015 at 8:25pm
Lazio is pure garbage, they're gonna get destroyed and embarrass Serie A worse than Sampdoria just did. SO much for hoping we would have another great year in Europe and surpass England or Germany again in the rankings. Serie A should permanently ban these garbage teams from European competitions until we have solidified our position as second best league (after La Liga)
on the 10th August, 2015 at 4:16pm
Such a shame to see the 3rd place qualification go to waste again… Really don't see anything other than a Leverkusen win at this stage, all things considered, Lazio look like there gonna do a Napoli except this time there not expected to win like we all know the partnopei should have last year.
on the 10th August, 2015 at 1:50pm

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