Lazio out to dislodge leaders

In-form sides S.S. Lazio and Chelsea FC are both aiming for victory when they meet in Rome.

By Tom Kington in Rome

Lifted by renewed form in Italy's Serie A, S.S. Lazio are out to avenge their 2-1 UEFA Champions League defeat by Chelsea two weeks ago when they welcome the Londoners to the Stadio Olimpico.

Ranieri ambition
Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri is unlikely to pack his defence, however, knowing three points could stretch their lead at the top of Group G. "When you are manager of a team like Chelsea you cannot look to travel around the world seeking draws," said Ranieri.

'Extraordinary players'
Roberto Mancini admires his side's opponents, who have been bolstered by a record summer spending spree. "Chelsea are gradually becoming a more compact team this season - and this could be a problem for us," said the Lazio coach. "They boast a number of extraordinary players. [Juan Sebastián] Verón is one of the best players in the world, whereas [Adrian] Mutu, [Jimmy Floyd] Hasselbaink and [Hernán] Crespo will score the first moment you leave them alone."

Tight group
With the group stage now moving past halfway stage, many had expected Chelsea and Lazio to be firmly in control and on course for the knockout stages. But with Besiktas JK winning at Stamford Bridge and AC Sparta Praha clinching a point against Lazio in Rome before beating the Turkish champions, the group is tight.

Draw sufficient
Lazio have four points from three games, two behind Chelsea, and Mancini suggested a draw might not mean an early exit. "A victory for Lazio would make qualification almost assured and we will go out to win, but it is true that nine points at the end of the group stage does get teams through most of the time," he said.

'Close the game'
Asked what he would change from Lazio's performance at Chelsea, he said: "We must learn how to close the game after going ahead. We must not let in two goals again - against Chelsea we gave them space and made two mistakes."

Oddo out
Jaap Stam is an injury worry for Mancini, who will definitely be without the suspended Massimo Oddo, who has been in outstanding form on the right this season. Up front Mancini may opt for Bernardo Corradi or Claudio López, who played under Ranieri at Valencia CF from 1997-99.

Lampard warning
Meanwhile, Chelsea's matchwinner against Lazio, Frank Lampard - a virtual stalwart having signed in 2001 - is under no illusions about his team's task. "We are on a stage right now," he said. "That means every team wants to beat Chelsea."

'Not easy'
"It's not easy to buy ten players and integrate them immediately, but we grow every day and hope to be stronger than we were against Lazio at Stamford Bridge," added Ranieri, who has his entire first-team squad available. The Chelsea manager said that despite the balance in Group G results, Lazio and Chelsea have "something extra" on Besiktas and Sparta. "But we have to go out and prove this on the field," he said.

Top