European football is back. The biggest knockout tie of this Europa League Round of 32 kicks off this Thursday night in none other than Rome's Olympic Stadium. Sevilla have not visited Rome since August 2015 when they lost against Roma in a pre-season friendly. In 1996 Sevilla beat Lazio on penalties - with the decisive goal from Monchi - to win the Osama Cup. Almost 23 years later it's time to face Lazio once more in this mythical stadium whose current structure dates from 1990 when it was reconstructed for the World Cup in Italy. It is a vital match which could tip the balance in the tie, although it is most likely to be decided in six days time back in Nervión.
Sevilla come to the game on the back of the point won in injury time against Eibar and with Nolito, Gonalons, Aleix Vidal and Gnagnon out through injury. Neither will Max Wöber be able to play; he is serving a suspension for being sent-off in the Champions League for Ajax against Bayern Munich. After a group stage in which Machín heavily rotated, it is to be seen whether the Sorian will continue to rotate in European competition or if he will go with everything from the start. After winning all of the away legs in the qualifying rounds, the team is looking for their fifth away win in the Europa League after securing their fourth away to Akhisarspor in Turkey.
Machín's men are looking for the fifth away win in Europe this season
No one, not least Lazio, ignores the fact that history gives Sevilla FC the favourite tag given their five trophies won in the last thirteen years. Lazio have won one UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1999 against Mallorca in Birmingham and they hope to beat last year's effort when they almost made it to the semi-finals, only to be denied by a comeback from Red Bull Salzburg in injury time. After finishing second in their group behind Eintracht Frankfurt and above last year's runners up, Marseille, Lazio face this tie in the middle of a resurgence in the league. In fact, after a tough start to the year with defeats against Napoli and Juventus, they have pushed on with wins against Frosinone and Empoli to get back into contention for European spots. They are currently seventh but level on points with Atalanta in fifth and Roma in sixth.
Lazio finished second in their group: behind Eintracht Frankfurt and above Marseille
The Serbian Milinkovic-Savic is ruled out for the match, while Ciro Immobile is a big doubt. Luis Alberto has been wrapped in cotton wool for the past few days and missed out the match against Empoli and confirmed himself on SFC Radio that he is able to play in the match. Regarding Sevilla's history in Italy, it is true they have only won once there in their entire history, although that was in their last Europa League campaign, beating Fiorentina in the semi-finals in 2015. Lazio have not welcomed a Spanish team to Rome since 2012, when Atlético Madrid knocked them out in this very round.
Regarding the referee, it will be the Slovenian Slavko Vincic. He has refereed Lazio's 5-1 rout of Steaua last year, while he has also crossed paths with Sevilla. He refereed the 3-0 win against Mladost Podgorica in 2013/14 and also the 2-0 defeat in Holland against Feyenoord in 2014.