The Stadio Olimpico is the initial setting for the first meeting of Lazio and RB Salzburg in almost a decade. On the last occasion, Salzburg ran out the victors, producing identical 2-1 results in both home and away fixtures. Although Lazio are the bookmakers' favourites this time round, Salzburg wouldn’t surprise many long-term observers by going some way to replicate the outcome of 2009.
Lazio’s turgid domestic performances of late have seen them unexpectedly drop into the battle with both Milan clubs and Roma for a fourth place finish in Serie A. Since the end of January, they have managed to win a third of their domestic league fixtures, these coming against strugglers Hellas Verona and Sassuolo, and Bennevento a comprehensive 6-2 at the weekend. This has led to I Biancocelesti sitting in fifth in the league, sandwiched between the two Milan clubs as the final stretch of the season approaches. The pressure is on coach Simone Inzaghi for an upturn of form, either by solidifying a place in the top four, or mounting a real challenge to lift the Europa League trophy in Lyon, for Champions League qualification next season.
The Key Man For I Biancocelesti
One person Inzaghi can rely on is Ciro Immobile. The centre-forward’s fantastic performances for Lazio has seen a return of 26 goals in all competitions, and is the primary reason why the Rome team now claim the highest goal tally in Serie A, surpassing table-toppers Juventus.
Immobile is on course to surpass his best league tally of 28, which he managed at Pescara in 2011/12, and the striker also has a realistic chance of knocking Aduriz off his perch as top scorer in the Europa League. He currently has six in Lazio’s continental campaign, only two behind the Athletic Bilbao striker. This has helped see off Dynamo Kiev and Romanian side FCSB, a game in which Immobile scored a hat trick, en route to this intriguing semi-final clash with the Austrian League Champions.
RB Salzburg’s Impressive Run In Europe
RB Salzburg haven’t lost a game since a group stage match against Nice in November 2016, a run extending over a period of 15 games and two competitions. Domestically, they have only tasted defeat once, against second placed Sturm Graz right back at the beginning of the season in August. Of course, the lack of reverence for the Austrian Bundesliga is apparent, but it’s hard to argue that Salzburg could perform any better. To reach this stage of the Europa League, they produced an excellent away performance against Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 16 to win 2-1 from a Valon Berisha brace and locked-out Die Schwarzgelben in the return at the Red Bull Arena.
Who Could Perform For Die Roten Bullen
Munas Dabbur is the Austrian side’s top scorer, although the Israeli has just ended a relatively barren run; after failing to score in their past five matches in all competitions having scored five in the previous five, Dabbur managed to score the second against Wolfsberger AC at the weekend. Fredrik Gulbrandsen has been a key supportive player alongside Dabbur and, whilst the Norwegian’s return in the Europa League is modest, he is experiencing a purple patch domestically after scoring four and providing one in his last five appearances .
Both Have The Potential To Qualify
Salzburg have a real chance of potentially getting into a not-quite-highly-anticipated 'Red Bull Derby 'in the Semi-Finals, with RB Leipzig looking to progress past Olympique de Marseille in their own Quarter-Final tie. Lazio should not expect an easy encounter, and will need Immobile on top-form, in what could be the most unpredictable fixture in this Europa League round.
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