After Poland's abject showing at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, football in the country has received a much-needed boost this season by the continued excellence of Wisla Krákow in the UEFA Cup. A victory against S.S. Lazio in tonight's rearranged fourth round second-leg tie would do much to further raise spirits.
The game was due to take place last Thursday, when the pitch in Krakow failed an inspection. The playing surface had been covered in snow for much of the week and freezing temperatures took their toll. To ensure there was no repeat the second time around, Wisla hired a hot-air machine and the tie will go ahead as scheduled at 18.00CET.
Irrepressible in Europe
Wisla have been irrepressible in Europe this term, thrashing Parma AC and FC Schalke 04 4-1 in the second legs of their two previous ties. Such a scoreline this evening would be remarkable against a Lazio side who are unbeaten in eleven matches this season away from the Stadio Olimpico, the venue of the 3-3 first-leg draw between these sides.
The Polish challengers are looking for a hat-trick of recent Italian scalps at home after defeating Internazionale FC in the UEFA Cup last season before bowing out 2-1 on aggregate. They will be boosted by inclusion of Maciej Zurawski, the scorer of two goals in Rome. The 26-year-old Polish international's participation was in doubt last week, but he is a certain starter after recovering from a stomach injury. Arkadiusz Glowacki and Marcin Baszczynski are also expected to play after recovering from colds.
Lazio are preparing to enter the lion's den. The match has been given added spice by the Polish media's decision to blame the Italian club for the failure of last week's match to go ahead. The Wisla coach, Henryk Kasperczak, had no qualms at the postponement and has called on supporters of his side to welcome Lazio to Krakow. "
I would like to ask our fans to give a fair invitation to the Italian team," he said.
Roberto Mancini, Kasperczak's opposite number, is confident that his Lazio side will be the one which progresses to a quarter-final against Besiktas JK, the unbeaten Turkish league leaders. "It will not be a match like the rest but this can also give us strength to hold on for victory," he said. AS Roma are next up for Lazio, though Mancini refuses to think ahead to Saturday's capital city showdown, saying: "I will choose the best formation without thinking about the derby."
His plans have been hampered by the absence of goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi and defender Sinisa Mihajlovic with thigh and back injuries respectively, as well as 'flu sufferer Dino Baggio. Luca Marchegiani is likely to be handed the No1 jersey, while Dejan Stankovic and Giuseppe Pancaro are both fit again for a match in which Lazio cannot afford a low-scoring draw.
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