Ernesto Valverde takes his Villarreal CF side to Rome for a UEFA Europa League Group G meeting with S.S. Lazio defending the proud record of having never lost to Italian opposition in seven contests.
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With a previous meeting in Rome having proved inconclusive, Villarreal CF return to the Eternal City to take on UEFA Europa League Group G rivals S.S. Lazio for a second time.
• The sides met in Rome in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup group stage, with Domenico Caso's Lazio coming from behind to earn a 1-1 draw against Manuel Pellegrini's visitors.
• The teams for that match on 21 October 2004 were:-
Lazio: Sereni, Siviglia*, Dabo* (Giannichedda, 57), Zauri, Manfredini (Rocchi*, 46), Pandev, Liverani, Inzaghi, Oddo, Negro, Šerić (Di Canio, 66).
Villarreal: Reina, Rodríguez, Cazorla* (Josico, 77), Riquelme, Roger (Font, 73), Quique Álvarez, Venta*, Battaglia, José Mari, Arzo (Armando Sá, 87), Alcantara.
*eligible to play in this game.
• The only Spanish side to have beaten Lazio in Rome are FC Barcelona, who triumphed 3-0 in a 1975/76 UEFA Cup second round tie. Since then, the Biancocelesti have earned two wins and four draws at home against Liga sides.
• Villarreal have come away with two stalemates and three defeats on their five previous visits to Italy.
• Lazio have scored at least once in their last 12 European home games. The last side to deny them were Chelsea FC, who emerged 4-0 winners in a UEFA Champions League group-stage game at the Stadio Olimpico on 4 November 2003.
• A 2-0 reverse at FC Salzburg on Matchday 2 ended a three-game winning streak in Europe for Villarreal, during which they scored ten goals and conceded only two.
• Formerly a player at AC Cesena, Davide Ballardini took over as Lazio coach during the summer following the departure of Delio Rossi. He had previously been in charge at Cagliari Calcio before earning a number of fine results as boss of US Città di Palermo last season.
• Having won the Greek title with Olympiacos FC last term, Ernesto Valverde took over at Villarreal this summer after his predecessor, Pellegrini, became Real Madrid CF boss. The former RCD Espanyol, FC Barcelona and Athletic Club Bilbao winger was nicknamed 'Txingurri' (The Ant in Basque) for his modest stature and prodigious work-rate.
• In three games against Italian clubs as coach of Athletic and Espanyol, Valverde earned three victories – two at home and one away.
• Valverde also played in the Espanyol side that eliminated AC Milan and FC Internazionale Milano in successive rounds – the second and third – en route to finishing runners-up in the 1987/88 UEFA Cup. With two triumphs and two draws in those fixtures, he has never lost a game against a Serie A side.
• Lazio's Argentinian defender Lionel Scaloni could meet team-mates from two former clubs: Joan Capdevila (RC Deportivo La Coruña, 2000-06) and Ariel Ibagaza (RCD Mallorca, 2008).
• Lazio's Eliseu (Málaga CF, 2007-09) and Matuzalem (Real Zaragoza, 2007-08) also have experience of Spanish football.
• Villarreal boast Italian talent in the form of United States-born striker Giuseppe Rossi, who started his career with Parma FC. Rossi and Lazio's Tommaso Rocchi were strike partners with Italy at the 2008 Olympic Games in China.
• Lazio's Ştefan Radu celebrates his 23rd birthday on the day of the match.
• The two sides meet again in Spain on 5 November for Matchday 4.