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Goalkeeper Marco Ballotta says S.S. Lazio must go into Wednesday's Group C game against Olympiacos CFP in a relaxed state of mind if they are to get the victory required to move closer to the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds.
Although the two sides drew 1-1 in Athens on Matchday 1, Ballotta believes Lazio should have won despite falling behind early in the second half. "We placed too much importance on the first match and it affected our fluency," said the keeper, whose second-placed team are level on five points with the Greek champions. "This time we must be careful not to overstress the importance of the game, so we can play more naturally and not be distracted."
Ballotta became the oldest player to appear in the UEFA Champions League, at the age of 43, in that match at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium and will be hoping to stretch that record by helping Lazio reach the latter stages of the competition for the first time since 1999/2000. He prefers, though, to focus on the Greek club's pedigree than on his own. "They have a lot of experience at this level and that is important in any field. It will not be easy, but I think desire and concentration are just as important, and we must be 100 per cent focused if we are to win."
Ballotta has been ever-present in the UEFA Champions League this season, also starting both legs of Lazio's third qualifying round victory over FC Dinamo 1948 Bucureşti. He is still to keep a clean sheet, however, and is wary of Olympiacos's attacking flair. "They have very good forward players, for example Lomana LuaLua, and they also have quality behind the strikers. So it will be important to play short and not to overdo things."
Ballotta did, nonetheless, assist Lazio in recording a fourth shutout in Serie A this term in Sunday's 1-0 home win against Parma FC, which ended a four-match winless run. Lazio had been struggling on the domestic front – they climbed to 14th with that success – and Ballotta anticipates that the weekend result can be the beginning of a positive sequence for the capital club. "We have to build on Sunday's victory and play to that level again," he stressed.
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