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S.S. Lazio coach Roberto Mancini believes three points against AC Sparta Praha will be enough to earn the Italian side a place in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.
Bottom of the table
Mancini's team are currently bottom of Group G with five points, the same number as Sparta. However, with second-placed Besiktas JK on seven points and ending their campaign at home to leaders Chelsea FC, Mancini predicted his side would progress to the knockout stages with victory in the Czech Republic.
'Out of our hands
"Unfortunately the qualification issue is not in our hands," said the trainer. "However, I believe that if we win, we will qualify. Our only thought must be to play well and win."
The Serie A club will be lifted by a 2-0 victory against Juventus FC at the weekend, and Mancini believes that success will inspire his players. "We have to maintain our unbeaten run," he said. "Beating Juventus was a great morale-boost and it ensured we won three important points."
Mancini is likely to include midfield player Dejan Stankovic after a domestic suspension, but is still without the banned Sinisa Mihajlovic and has doubts over two strikers. Argentinian international Claudio López is definitely out with a knee injury, while Roberto Muzzi had to be substituted against Juventus. "We will see how he is in training," said Mancini.
In their absence, Simone Inzaghi will be looking to continue his fine record against Sparta. "I have scored four goals against Sparta - two in the 2000/01 Champions League, and two in October [when the sides drew 2-2 at the Stadio Olimpico]," said the forward. "I hope to score more on Tuesday but the important thing is that, whoever plays, we win and qualify for the next round, hoping that Chelsea do not lose against Besiktas. We will play our own game and will only look at the result of the other match at the end."
First goal crucial
Jirí Kotrba's Sparta led 2-0 at half-time in Rome on Matchday 2, yet the coach does not expect such an end-to-end encounter this time around. "We will play for everything but I don't think it will be an open game," Kotrba said. "
The team that scores first will have a big advantage. Lazio are most threatening when they break quickly, and we must watch out for that."
'We must win first'
While a Besiktas draw would not rule out Lazio, Sparta will only overhaul the team currently in second place if they win and the Turkish champions lose. Like Mancini, though, Kotrba is focusing on his side first and foremost. "We want to go through and we have to win against Lazio first and then look for the Besiktas result," he said. "I will not have any information from that match - we have to concentrate on our game."
Away form better
Captain Karel Poborský expects a different Lazio to the team Sparta met in Rome, saying: "We know what we have to play for and we will do everything to win. But Lazio showed their qualities in the game against Juventus. They play better away than at home, and I am expecting a very difficult game."
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