S.S. Lazio coach Delio Rossi expects a physical test against FC Dinamo Bucuresti as his team bid to return to the group stage for the first time since 2003/04.
S.S. Lazio coach Delio Rossi has warned his players that they face a tough physical test against Romanian visitors FC Dinamo 1948 Bucuresti in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round on Tuesday.
Lazio are bidding to return to the group stage for the first time since 2003/04 but come up against a team already three games into their campaign. "Our biggest problem is that we're facing opponents who are better prepared physically – we only started pre-season training a few weeks ago," Rossi said. "We have to do all we can to win, but they're a strong side, otherwise they wouldn't have won the Romanian title." Midfielder Mourad Meghni is the only absentee from a strong-looking Lazio squad, however. Striker Tommaso Rocchi has overcome a back injury and should start alongside Goran Pandev, who is in form having scored nine goals in ten summer friendlies.
After the Rome club worked so hard to finish third in Serie A last term, midfielder Massimo Mutarelli says they cannot throw away the chance of UEFA Champions League football. "We're looking forward to this tie," he said. "I don't know Dinamo very well, but we all know they are tough opponents so we have to play with the right attitude. We're getting better and better, both physically and mentally." Like most of his team-mates, the 29-year-old will be taking part in the competition for the first time, yet Mutarelli insists that this is no hindrance to Lazio. "It's a positive, not a problem, because it keeps us concentrated and determined."
Dinamo are in the third qualifying round for the second time – and will want to go one better than three years ago when they were knocked out 5-1 on aggregate by Manchester United FC. Dinamo have strengthened since, and though they are self-confessed underdogs here, confidence remains high. "Our chances are 50/50," goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont said. "Lazio are a very strong, well-organised side but we can spring a surprise." Coach Mircea Rednic added: "We respect Lazio. We know how strong they are, but my boys are well aware of what they can do as well. They can do it."
Dinamo are fifth in Romania's Liga 1 with six points from three matches, having recovered from the mini-crisis that followed their home defeat by SC Vaslui by winning 3-0 at FC Ceahlaul Piatra Neamt on Friday. "The entire team ran, ran and ran – they worked so hard it was logical we won," Rednic said. With Claudiu Niculescu, Ionel Danciulescu and Ianis Zicu impressing in attack the victory came as a timely boost, although Rednic will be without injured defenders Cosmin Moti and Andrei Margaritescu for Tuesday's first leg.