22nd August 2014
Cox: "Lazio Not Here To Make Up The Numbers..."
The group stage draw was conducted today at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.
Lazio manager Matt Cox believes that qualification out of his team's Champions League group is 'do-able' and that his team will play to win.
Serie A champions Lazio were a 4th seed going into the group stage draw today so many fans were expecting the worst as they waited to hear the news of who the Rome based team would be playing in their first Champions League appearance since 2006; with a possible group of Real Madrid, Paris Saint Germain and Liverpool potentially waiting for one unlucky bottom seeded side.
However the Biancocelesti's task is still a challenging one as they were drawn with Schalke (GER), Olympique Lyonnais (FRA) and FC Basel (SWI). Schalke and Lyon took part in last years Champions League group stage but both finished 3rd in their groups. FC Basel however will be a familiar foe as Cox's men played them twice in the group stage of the Europa League last season, (a group which Lazio topped comfortably knocking off Basel 3-0 in the process).
When interviewed by Sky Italia, Cox was confident of progressing to the knockout stages, but wary of his opponents: "It's a do-able job. Aslong as we play with the intensity that we have over the last 12 months then we will be in the next round. They are three very good teams and are all sides that are Champions League regulars. However our advantage is that they are teams that never really make a splash in the competition. My team are not here to make up the numbers."
This is Lazio's first appearance in the competition since the 2006/07 season, however on that occasion the blue side of Rome finished bottom of the group and were eliminated with 5 points. Lazio's best ever run in the Champions League came in 1999 when they reached the quarter finals but were eliminated by Valencia, losing 5-3 on aggregate. Cox said that topping the group is a realistic target: "I think we showed that we can compete with anybody we come up against last season and we started this year with a good win over Juventus. Despite being the bottom seeded team, I think that we might be people's favourites to win this group."
Cox finished by telling the media that he was happy to avoid the bigger teams at this stage and that a quarter final place this time around would be a great achievement: "Even without teams like Arsenal and Man United this is a very strong tournament and there are some horrible groups so we are lucky. If we were drawn with Real Madrid and PSG then the intensity of the games over a short month are to much of a new experience and we would suffer in the league. It's a new experience for a lot of these players so a quarter final would be something I'd be happy with. However I know and the lads though that if you're not here to win it then don't bother coming."
Champions League Group Stage Draw
Sporting Club Portugal
FC Red Bull Salzburg
FC Bayern Munich
The opening round of games will get underway on Tuesday 16th September as the teams make their journey to Berlin, Germany with Barcelona looking to defend their crown at the Olymiastadion on May 30th next year.