Sport : Football

Lazio set to avoid Lane defeat

20th September 2012, 08:38am

Hernanes should be a big threat for the visitors

Hernanes should be a big threat for the visitors

Tottenham host Lazio in the Europa League on Thursday and our Ben Coley thinks they'll struggle against an in-form side.

2pts Lazio to avoid defeat at Tottenham at evens (Betfred, Coral).

1pt Anzhi Makhachkala to beat Udinese at 17/10 (Coral).

Thursday night marks the start of the Europa League proper and three Premier League sides are involved.

Liverpool travel to Swiss outfit Young Boys, Newcastle visit Portugal and Maritimo, while Tottenham play host to Serie A stalwarts Lazio.

And it's the latter game which looks to offer the most value, with the Biancazzurri a big-looking evens simply to avoid defeat at White Hart Lane.

Lazio have a blemish-free record this season, with five wins from as many games, and although yet to be tested by top-class opposition, there's no denying that they're a confident and free-scoring outfit.

Brazilian playmaker Hernanes is very much the man behind the magic at present. The Prophet, as he's known locally, attracted plenty of attention in the summer with some suggesting that Spurs themselves had a bid turned down.

Add Mauro Zarate and Miroslav Klose - the latter bagged a brace against Palmero to show that there's still life in the old dog - and you have a very dangerous proposition.

And while new head coach Vladimir Petkovic might not have been a popular appointment at the Stadio Olimpico, it's a case of so far, so good: Petkovic is only the second manager in Lazio's history to start his tenure with three consecutive Serie A wins.

Make no mistake, I consider Andre Villas-Boas an extremely talented manager too and he will do very well for Spurs, but early signs are that he'll need the sort of time that wasn't allowed at Chelsea.

His side have played twice at home this year and have drawn 1-1 on both occasions, and while victorious at Reading on Sunday this will be an altogether different test.

The Portuguese promises to take this tie seriously and will name a side similar to that of last weekend, although Hugo Lloris and Clint Dempsey should come in.

But for all their dominance at the Madejski Stadium, Spurs did offer hope to Reading and clearly missed the still-absent Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Younes Kaboul and Scott Parker.

Remember, Spurs were knocked out of Europe last season largely due to a home defeat to PAOK Salonika, and they're no value whatsoever at odds-on.

There's a temptation to chance Lazio at around 3/1, but evens about them avoiding defeat looks really solid and that's where we'll go.

The tie of the night looks to take place in Italy where Udinese host Anzhi Makhachkala, and the mega-rich Russians could edge it.

Udinese do have a fine home record in Europe, but they've started the season poorly - they're in this competition because Braga knocked them out in their Champions League qualifier - and this represents their toughest test yet.

Anzhi have won each of their last five games, scoring 17 in the process, and their sole defeat this season came by a solitary goal at CSKA Moscow.

Captain Samuel Eto'o has five goals in his last six, as does strike-partner Lacina Traore, and they helped Anzhi to a remarkable 5-0 win away at AZ Alkmaar to make the group stage.

Udinese's 4-1 home defeat against Juventus should be taken with a pinch of salt - they had Zeljko Brkic sent off after just 12 minutes - but the fact is they're winless in five this term and blew a two-goal lead in Siena on Sunday.

In addition, Udinese host AC Milan this weekend and really do need to get up and running in the league, whereas Anzhi will be odds-on favourites to win at newly-promoted FC Alania Vladikavkaz and shouldn't be too worried about that game.

Ultimately, the Russians look a stronger side on paper, they're in better form, they've fewer distractions and at 17/10 they're definitely the value.

  • Preview posted at 1130 BST on 19/09/2012.

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