Celtic v Lazio: From 90s powerhouse to mid-table, Serie A side still pack a punch

Lazio sit seventh in Serie A after coming from 3-0 down to draw with Atalanta at the weekend
Lazio sit seventh in Serie A after coming from 3-0 down to draw at home with Atalanta at the weekend
Europa League: Celtic v Lazio
Venue: Celtic Park Date: Thursday, 24 October Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW/DAB/online; live text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Perhaps more than any other Italian club, Lazio were thrust into the British consciousness in the early 1990s.

Exposure in the UK to Serie A football coincided with the future Rangers midfielder Paul Gascoigne's move to the Rome club, having starred for England at the Italia 90 World Cup two years previously.

Although Gascoigne did not lift a trophy in his three years at 'I Biancocelesti', the decade was their halcyon period, bringing victory in the last Uefa Cup Winners' Cup, the Uefa Super Cup, the Coppa Italia and their second and most recent 'Scudetto'. They would also finish runners-up in the Uefa Cup.

During this period, other world football stars would strut their stuff in Lazio's light blue, such as Pavel Nedved, Sinisa Mihajlovic, Marcelo Salas, Juan Veron and Hernan Crespo, as well as homegrown internationals including Roberto Mancini, Christian Vieri and Alessandro Nesta.

The good news for Celtic ahead of the upcoming mid-group Europa League double-header is that Lazio have long since shed the muscle they once flexed.

They opened the group with a defeat in Romania to Cluj before redressing the balance with a home victory over Rennes last time out.

Generally a mid-table side these days, Lazio gained automatic entry to the groups by winning their seventh Italian Cup last season, defeating Atalanta with late goals from two players who could cause Neil Lennon's side headaches on Thursday and in the Rome return in a fortnight.

And they come to Scotland buoyed by an impressive comeback from 3-0 down against last season's final opponents with 21 minutes to play to salvage a draw.

Players to watch

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (right) has scored already in the Europa League this season
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (right) has scored already in the Europa League this season

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

The Spanish-born Serbia international is an outstanding, powerful midfielder who scored the opening goal in last season's cup final win over Atalanta. As a youngster, the 24-year-old played under former Scotland and Rangers manager Alex McLeish at Belgian side Genk and could also come up against the Scots if both nations reach their Euro 2020 play-off final.

He scored the equaliser against Rennes in Lazio's last group game.

Joaquin Correa

The four-cap Argentine was signed in 2018 from Sevilla not long after he was sent off by Scottish referee Willie Collum during a Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich. Correa scored the clinching second goal as Lazio lifted the Coppa Italia in May.

Ciro Immobile

Perhaps the most famous of the Lazio squad, the Italy international, who played at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016, has been deadly since signing in 2016. That is borne out in the prolific statistic that has seen him score 96 goals in 143 games. The striker began his career at Juventus before spells at Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla, but it is at Lazio that he has really flourished.

He has scored 11 goals in 11 games this season, with two converted penalties at the weekend, either side of of a fine Correa strike.

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