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  22/08/2012: Europa League Qualfication: NK Mura 05 - Lazio
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After a long and somehow stormy summer Lazio will kick start the new season as the team enters the last qualifying stage of the Europa League. By winning the domestic cup Napoli booked the final direct qualification spot to the tournament, despite finishing below Lazio in the final league table and therefore Lazio enters the competition in the same stage as last year where the team fought off Rabotnicki.

The discussions surrounding the changes in the managerial staff, the lack of transfers in and the dragged out process of finding new clubs for unwanted players have been frequent and many during the summer and one can assume that they will be ongoing at least until the end of the month and the closure of the transfer window. What is certain though is that the returning players in Floccari and Zarate have been selected for the list handed in to UEFA for the qualifying round, but it remains to be seen if any of the two players are to feature in the game or if they will be saved in order to not decrease their market value if an interested party would ask for their services.

Out of the five teams that Lazio could potentially have faced for this round it can be argued that Nogometno Drustvo Mura 05 was the weakest card, at least on paper, and everyone is expecting Lazio to squeeze through without too many problems in the two legged encounter. Underestimating the team from Slovenia would be a large mistake though, as the team has made it this far by beating Baki of Azerbaijan, CSKA Sofia of Bulgaria and Arsenal Kyiv of Ukraine.
In the domestic league the Slovenians have had a far from convincin

g start, sitting at the bottom of the table with only one point in six games and coming from consecutive losses against Maribor and NK Aluminij. In this the fourth feature in European competitions it is mainly two players to keep a close eye on, namely Fajic and Eterovic, but overall Lazio should not face any obstacles against Mura 05. One worry could be that Slovenians are under way with their competitive games this season, while Lazio is still to play competitive football.

On the Biancocelesti horizon things are not as blue as many supporters had been hoping for. The summer friendlies have been far from convincing and before the narrow 2-1 win against Swedish Malmö FF a week ago Lazio had recorded four straight losses without managing to score one single goal. The worries started in July with the team falling short against Siena and Torino, while the journey to Turkey and a friendly fixture against Galatasaray ended in a 1-0 loss. In the official opening of the season, with team and player presentation followed by a game against Spanish side Getafe, the fourth loss was collected and the clouds mounting up for newly appointed head coach Vladimir Petkovic. Following the miserable form shown by the team and the lack of champion additions as Lazio patron Lotito had promised the number of season ticket holders is on a low and the blue portion of Rome’s football supporters are far from convinced that this will be a season where Lazio develops from the fourth place finish of last year.

One of the many points brought forward by criticisers at this stage has been the lack of a structured idea of how the team is to play. Petkovic has tested more or less all possible formation through the summer, certainly adding to the lack of organisation, and all guesses are equally good regarding the possible formation and tactics of the team that will be fielded tomorrow night. Latest reports are pointing towards a 4-3-3 formation, one that for most look more like a 4-2-3-1 – the only thing that is certain is that a back four will be used and that Klose will feature as the only striker.

Possible line-ups:

Mura 05: Drakovic, Cipot, Majer, Bohar, Horvat, Kramar, Fajic, Janza, Jelic, Eterovic, Marusko.

Lazio: Marchetti, Konko, Biava, Dias, Cavanda, Onazi, Ledesma, Mauri, Hernanes, Lulic, Klose.

Interesting fact: Mura 05 are playing the first game at home after UEFA changed the schedule of the two teams and in which order they were to face each other. The reason for this is that Mura 05s own home ground, Fazanerija Stadium with a capacity of 3800 spectators, is not approved by UEFA to host a game in this round of the competition. To solve this issue the team has moved to Maribor and Ljudski vrt with the capacity of 13 000 spectators. Kick off time is set for 21.00. The return leg is played August 30 in Rome.

(Khashayar Kashefi)

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