Borussia M’gladbach may have done well to qualify from what was a very strong group, but it is the match against Lazio that will show whether Lucien Favre’s side have got what it takes to reach the closing stages of the competition. The Biancocelesti will see a match in Germany as a good opportunity to return to winning ways following the weekend’s draw with Napoli.
Gladbach on the downtrend
Everybody at the club must be delighted to see the team in Europa League knockout stages less than two years after they were on the brink of relegation to the second division. The arrival of Lucien Favre changed everything as the Swiss coach not only saved die Fohlen from the drop, but also led them to Champions League places next term. However, Borussia have been struggling to rediscover the form that served them so well last season, mostly because new players were not able to properly replace the likes of Marco Reus, Dante and Roman Neustadter. As a result, die Fohlen currently occupy 8th place in the Bundesliga standings, and they are not doing particularly well at the moment. After losing to Nurnberg, they somehow managed to hold Bayer Leverkusen to a 3-3 draw at home, but only after being completely outclassed by their more illustrious opponents. With the team far from the desired form and low on confidence, I seriously doubt they can match very good Lazio side.
Thorben Marx is back to the side after recovering from injury, but first choice keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is struggling with a thigh problem. Peniel Mlapa and Benjamin Hrgota are definitely out.
Can Lazio go all the way?
Managers of Italian teams have become famous for fielding under strength sides in Europa League, but new Lazio boss Vladimir Petkovic was having none of it and immediately showed that his side value this European competition. That has seen the Biancocelesti pip Tottenham to the first place in the group and earn a clash with Borussia M’gladbach. Lazio may not be on top of their game at the moment, having made several slip-ups in Serie A, but they did eliminate mighty Juventus to reach Coppa Italia final and played a very good game against Napoli at the weekend. With their next league game scheduled for Monday, Vladimir Petkovic can field his strongest line-up without any concerns, and his players are certainly expected to give their best in Germany. Some may say that Miroslav Klose will be sorely missed, but that is unlikely to be the case given that his replacement Sergio Floccari has scored five goals in last seven fixtures.
Miroslav Klose and Cristian Brocchi remain sidelined, while Stefano Mauri is a major doubt with an ankle injury.
Borussia are clearly much weaker than last term and it is more than evident the team are going through a rough patch. Lazio, on the other hand, have been in fine form this season and they should have enough quality and motivation to earn a good result ahead of the return leg at Stadio Olimpico.
Top pick: Lazio Draw no bet 2.20 (6/5) @ Coral
Alternative pick 1: Half-time draw 2.10 (11/10) @ BetFred
Alternative pick 2: Away win 3.20 (11/5) @ BetVictor
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