By Tom Kington in Rome
S.S. Lazio will go into tonight's UEFA Champions League home match against Chelsea FC knowing a win is required to propel them towards the knockout stage of the competition.
'A strange group'
But in a group where only three points separate the four sides, no team has proved unbeatable and Lazio midfield player Fabio Liverani believes a draw might not be the end of the world. "It's a very strange group - just when you think an order is emerging, there is a shock result like Besiktas [JK] winning in England against Chelsea," the 27-year old told uefa.com.
The Chelsea game is an important game to win. But it's not the final and we must not risk too much, especially against counterattacks. And if it ends a draw we have two more games to secure qualification."
Difficult to predict
Lazio and Chelsea might have started as group favourites, and did beat Besiktas and AC Sparta Praha respectively in their opening games, but subsequent matches have proved less easy to predict. First Besiktas won at Chelsea, while Lazio had to claw two goals back in Rome to draw with Sparta.
Then the Czechs beat Besiktas to give all sides a victory and leave them squeezed so tight that the Group G table, which sees Chelsea on top, could be virtually reversed by tomorrow morning with no teams pulling away.
Place on the bench
Liverani may have to make do with a place on the bench tonight. A strong presence in Lazio's two league victories since the 2-1 defeat at Chelsea a fortnight ago, Liverani formed an elegant midfield partnership with Ousmane Dabo in Saturday's 2-1 win at Udinese Calcio but could make way for veteran European campaigner Demetrio Albertini.
Liverani joined Lazio from AC Perugia in 2001, the year he also donned the national shirt of Italy for the first time. Born in Rome to a Somalian mother and Italian father, he became the first black player to play for Italy. No stranger to the big stage then, Liverani does not see the Champions League as daunting, but as Lazio look to dislodge Chelsea from top spot, the player admitted the Londoners have a dazzling lineup.
'Many quality players'
They have so many quality, creative players, particularly in midfield and attack, like [Juan Sebastián] Verón and [Damian] Duff, who gave us trouble with their acceleration and ball possession," said Liverani, who came on as a late substitute in London. "If played, I'll be looking to pile pressure on the Chelsea players bringing the ball upfield."
Lazio played on the counterattack at Stamford Bridge, a ploy Liverani said they would repeat in Rome. "Chelsea do leave spaces in defence because so many of them bring the ball forward, so we'll look to contain them and attack swiftly," he warned.
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