Lazio vs Catania, Preview: European hopefuls clash in Rome

Paolo Bruno

Lazio hope to arrest their Serie A slump when Catania come to town on Saturday afternoon, with both sides desperately chasing a place in Europe next season.

Considered viable Scudetto challengers at the turn of the year, Lazio have endured a miserable 2013 thus far domestically, and have lost three league games on the bounce. As a result, the Biancocelesti have fallen seven points behind the Champions League places and are just two points ahead of their opponents.

Catania destroyed Lazio 4-0 in the reverse fixture back in November. However, that result then saw Lazio go on an unbeaten 16 game run in all competitions, which included a 3-0 Coppa Italia quarter final victory over the Elefanti at the beginning of January.

After suffering last-gasp defeats to both Inter Milan and Juventus in consecutive weeks, Catania scored a 3-1 win over Udinese before the international break, thanks to goals from Alejandro Gomez (2) and Francesco Lodi. Coincidentally, both players were also on the scoresheet when Catania thrashed Lazio.

The Sicilians are still on course for a Europa League place which will cap a fulfilling season for Rolando Maran, who this week put pen to paper on a new three year contract.

The rigours of competing in Europe and the league have clearly taken its toll on Vladimir Petkovic's side, though they are boosted by the timely return of Miroslav Klose to the matchday squad. The veteran marksman has been sidelined for almost two months with a knee injury, but will take his place among the substitutes.

Andre Dias joins an already lengthy Lazio injury list, which still includes Sergio Floccari, so the attacking options look to be between Libor Kozak and Louis Saha. Kozak has been a revelation in the Europa League with ten goals, but is yet to register this season in Serie A. The creative talents of Mauro Zarate would come in useful, but the temperamental Argentine has begun proceedings to terminate his contract after becoming fed up of being frozen out of the first team picture. Being caught holidaying in the Maldives whilst on injury leave didn't exactly endear Maurito to the higher ups and a split looks inevitable sooner rather than later.

Michael Ciani sits out a suspension after being sent off in the snow against Torino last time out. Federico Marchetti has recovered from a shoulder injury picked up on international duty and should retain the goalkeeping gloves. Both Giuseppe Biava and Stefano Mauri are carrying knocks, but are in the squad and in contention to play.

Catania have problems in defence, with Blazej Augustyn and Ciro Capuano injured and Alessandro Potenza and Nicolas Spolli both suspended. Fabio Sciacca also misses out in midfield, while Sergio Almiron faces a late fitness test. The Three Tenors - Gomez, Pablo Barrientos and Gonzalo Bergessio will all line up, hoping to add to the solitary victory Catania have against Lazio in Rome.

Lazio injuries and suspensions

Out: Abdoulay Konko, Marius Stankevicius, Andre Dias, Cristian Brocchi, Sergio Floccari (injured) Michael Ciani (suspended)

Catania injuries and suspensions

Out: Blazej Augustyn, Ciro Capuano, Fabio Sciacca (injured) Alessandro Potenza, Nicolas Spolli (suspended)

Match Date/Time: Saturday 30th March 2013 3:00 p.m. local, 9:00 a.m. ET

Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy

TV: Sky Calcio 4 (Italy)

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