Lazio hosted Sevilla in what was looked upon as one of the most attractive ties of the round. Both sides are battling it out in their respective leagues for Champions League football next season. With similar records in the league, Lazio sit seventh in Serie A on 38 points with 32 goals scored and 25 conceded. Sevilla currently occupy that fourth spot in La Liga with 37 points, scoring 38 goals and also conceding 25.
The statistics put Lazio in the front seat, having won six of their 12 games at the Stadio Olimpico this season, whilst Sevilla struggled on their travels, winning just three from 12 away from home. Our tactical analysis looks at the trends of the game.
Injuries ravaged the home side, with a number of key players missing. Notable omissions included Ciro Immobile, who holds the great threat in front of goal for Le Aquile. Sergei Milinkovic-Savic and Wallace completed the missing trio which form a key part of this Lazio side. Sevilla made several changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Eibar. Quincy Promes, Daniel Carrico, Maximilian Wober and Roque Mesa made way for Jesus Navas, Sergi Gomez, Franco Vazquez and Gabriel Mercado.
Lazio reliant on breaking Sevilla press
Sevilla were more than happy to let the Lazio defensive trio hold the ball in their own half. Repeatedly retreating to the halfway line to entice the Lazio side further up the pitch, leaving gaps in behind to expose.
Stefan Radu was often the target of the Sevilla front line. The Spanish side set out to ensure the Romanian defender had little time on the ball, and limited his options going forward. This example forces Radu to attempt a risky pass to his Bastos across the defence, or put Lucas Leiva under immense pressure. A high-risk procedure in such a dangerous part of the pitch, but successfully navigating the situation gives the possibility of removing four Sevilla players from the midfield immediately.
Sarabia movement providing penetration
Pablo Sarabia found himself in the number ten position, roaming across the pitch to avoid his opponents and seek out any space on the pitch. A role he managed to be extremely effective at, a constant thorn in the side of Lucas Leiva and Marco Parolo. Sarabia often found himself between the defensive and midfield line. The support of his partners in the forward line driving towards goal created a larger gap in those areas for him to exploit. With Sarabia having a significant pace advantage over Lucas Leiva, it was his intelligent movement which offered up these advantageous situations, giving him the time and space to pick out the correct pass.
Sarabia continued to float around the final third, with the winning goal coming as a result of his direct running into space that was made available by the hard work of Wassim Ben Yedder and Andre Silva. Franco Vazquez emerged with the ball and the clever movements made by the forward line attracted the attention of Lazio’s Bastos, opening a huge field of green for Sarabia to attack.
Once Sarabia had exposed the space and forced the defence to change direction, the Lazio central defence lost their bearings and failed to pick up Ben Yedder. The striker found himself in acres of space in the penalty area and was afforded the time to tell Sarabia exactly where to put the ball. The French striker finished with aplomb, finishing off a counter-attacking move, which ultimately proved to be the winning goal.
Ever Banega controlling the middle of the park
The Argentine midfielder was the tenacious, hard-working leader on the pitch we have all become accustomed to watching. Banega dictated the play from the centre of the pitch, covering every blade of grass to protect his front line. He repeatedly moved the ball on for the rest of the side to break forward with their pace and direct passing. By staying so central and deeper than the rest of his midfield, Banega, the number 10, was able to consistently offer a safe option to move the ball across the pitch as Lazio overloaded when trying to retrieve the ball.
Banega was confident on the ball, ensuring his side kept possession and limited the amount of counter-attacking opportunities for Lazio. Using his experience to shield the ball and win free-kicks when he was found under pressure. The midfield enforcer was fouled more times than any other player on the pitch, being impeded on a total of seven occasions.
Lazio will rue the fact they had so many key players missing. Immobile may have been able to take advantage of the few chances created by the home side. Milinkovic-Savic proved to be the biggest miss as Sevilla dominated the midfield area both technically and physically. Sarabia proved why the young striker is so highly-rated this season. Whilst the ever-reliable Banega continued to be a key performer for this Sevilla side.
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