As victory is the only route left open to the Europa League’s knockout phase for Feyenoord, they will go all-out for three points on Thursday, when they host Group F rivals Lazio at De Kuip.
The Dutch side can only confirm their place in the top two if they win by two goals or more – or if they win and Sturm Graz lose – and could even finish top of a congested section if results go their way. Meanwhile, after beating Midtjylland last week, their Italian opponents merely have to avoid defeat.
Seven days after all four Group F teams started the penultimate round tied on five points apiece, a fascinating finale lies in wait – both in Jutland and in Rotterdam.
Having slipped to a 1-0 defeat against Sturm Graz last week, Feyenoord can only seal a spot in the top two if they beat Lazio by more than one goal – anything else could see them crash out.
Last season’s Europa Conference League finalists have been left in such a precarious position due to taking just two points from their last three matches: a pair of 2-2 draws with Midtjylland and their more recent loss in Austria.
Including four goals in two games against the Danish side, Arne Slot’s side scored a total of 18 times in September (five fixtures), but have managed only 11 in seven during October.
Also on a run of just two wins from their last eight matches, they will have to reverse that decline if they are to overcome a Lazio side that beat them 4-2 on the opening matchday – but home advantage could play a large part in their attempt.
Roared on by the notorious De Kuip crowd, the Dutch club are undefeated in their last 11 home games in European competition; winning nine times and scoring 35 goals in the process.
Since their victory over Feyenoord on the Europa League’s opening night, Lazio have generally been in the ascendant, as Maurizio Sarri’s second year at the club begins to bear the fruit of his labours.
Following a shock 5-1 stuffing by Midtjylland, the Serie A side embarked on a spectacular run of form, which saw them win five out of six league matches without conceding a single goal.
However, somewhat surprisingly, Lazio suffered their first defeat in nine games on Sunday, when unlikely giant-slayers Salernitana produced a stunning fightback at Stadio Olimpico to consign Sarri’s men to a 3-1 defeat.
That brought to a shuddering halt the best ongoing streak of clean sheets across the top five European leagues, but they still remain inside Serie A’s top six and are on the cusp of securing qualification from Group F.
Last week, goals from Pedro and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic earned a 2-1 win over Midtjylland – and with it, a slice of revenge for their thumping in Denmark.
Therefore, victory on Thursday would now see the Biancocelesti avoid finishing in second and facing a tie against one of the Champions League drop-outs; or third place results in a Europa Conference League playoff.
While much remains on the line for Lazio, who still need a point on Thursday, Maurizio Sarri could be forgiven for having one eye on Sunday’s Derby della Capitale against fellow Europa League contestants Roma.
Therefore, some rotation could be in order – particularly following the loss to Salernitana. There are few options open to the former Napoli coach up front, however, as captain Ciro Immobile is still out with a hamstring injury,
In his absence, Mattia Zaccagni, Felipe Anderson and Pedro could form the visitors’ attacking triumvirate, but young Matteo Cancellieri is also available and is versatile enough to feature as a ‘false nine’.
Meanwhile, Manuel Lazzari returns to the squad after suspension saw him sit out last week’s Group F game, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is free to start too, though a domestic ban rules him out of the Rome Derby.
Feyenoord have not played since their defeat in Graz, so after a week preparing for Lazio’s visit, Arne Slot may once again refresh an unsettled forward line.
Both Patrik Walemark and Santiago Gimenez found themselves back on the bench last time out, but the latter is now likely to come in for Danilo up front. Another Brazilian, winger Igor Paixao, is also a strong contender to start.
Feyenoord possible starting lineup:
Bijlow; Geertruida, Trauner, Hancko, Lopez; Timber, Szymanski, Kokcu; Jahanbakhsh, Gimenez, Dilrosun
Lazio possible starting lineup:
Provedel; Hysaj, Gila, Romagnoli, Marusic; Milinkovic-Savic, Cataldi, Antonio; Pedro, Cancellieri, Zaccagni