By Trevor Haylett in London
Chelsea FC tackle the difficult hurdle of a home game against S.S. Lazio in UEFA Champions League Group D on Wednesday determined to eradicate the mistakes which have cost them heavily in recent games in both this competition and the English Premiership.
Lack of concentration
Manager Claudio Ranieri said if there was one lesson to be learned from the surprise home defeat by Besiktas JK three weeks ago it was that concentration levels have to hold firm for 90 minutes. In that game Chelsea first failed to pick up runners from a quick free-kick and then both Marcel Desailly and Carlo Cudicini were unable to deal with a routine high ball that handed the Turkish side their second goal in a 2-0 win.
On Saturday another Cudicini error sent them to defeat against Arsenal FC who consequently usurped their capital rivals as league leaders. "You cannot afford to make mistakes when you play football," said Ranieri, whose side are facing the team from his home city of Rome. "Against Besiktas we dominated the match but made some mistakes and they scored twice."
Ranieri has ruled out both Desailly and Emmanuel Petit through injury but John Terry is fit to return to the centre of defence. Lazio hold a one-point advantage at the top of the section although they too gained less than they desired on Matchday 2 when AC Sparta Praha took a point from the Stadio Olimpico in a 2-2 draw. Nevertheless, that reward was still more than seemed likely for Lazio at half-time as the Czech champions were two goals up.
Dip in form
Neither team is in the best form having lost at the weekend. Chelsea's was their first of the season in domestic football and Lazio were beaten 1-0 at AC Milan. "I saw that game and in the first half Lazio were magnificent, pushing Milan back in their own half," Ranieri said. "
It should be a good game between two teams who like to play football."
Lazio coach Roberto Mancini, who is expected to name the same team which started against Milan, refuted talk that Chelsea are a team that is still in the developmental stage. "They have excellent players and it is such players who win matches," he said. "When you buy so many players it takes time to gel and we hope they don't gel too soon. But they do not have any weaknesses."
It will be a sentimental occasion not just for Chelsea's Italian manager but also for both Hernán Crespo and Juan Sebastián Verón who will be facing one of their former clubs. Ranieri has described the Argentinian midfield player as the world's best in his position and Verón explained his determination to live up to the billing.
Lack of continuity
"Doubtless the manager made those comments having seen me on video for Sampdoria [UC] and Lazio," said Verón who explained that at Manchester United FC he did not get the same "continuity in my game. It is up to me to pay back the faith he has shown in me".
Verón's proven ability
Mancini said it would be a "real pleasure" to see Verón again both on and off the pitch. "I still believe he is one of the best midfield players in the world," he said. "Joining Manchester United carries a certain amount of risk because they always win and if they don't have such a successful seaon the temptation is to blame the new player but he has proved himself at all levels."
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