Stuttgart coach Bruno Labbadia has heaped praise on Europa League opponents Lazio ahead of their first leg on Thursday.
The mid-table Bundesliga side host the first leg of the round-of-16 tie, hoping to make a winning start before travelling to Italy.
Labbadia believes Vladimir Petkovic’s side are worthy of a spot in the Champions League and hailed the Serie A outfit’s attack, which led the way in their 5-3 aggregate win over Borussia Moenchengladbach in the previous round.
“Lazio is a very, very strong team in Italy. The team has moved forward in the last two years. Lazio has the will to clinch a Champions League place. It is a very experienced team,” Labbadia said.
“When you look at the average of age that is a typical Champions League team – the average of age is mostly between 27 and 29 years.
“Lazio have very good individual players especially in attack. They proved that to Borussia Moenchengladbach.”
The return leg on March 14 will be played behind closed doors at the Stadio Olimpico after Lazio were ordered to play two European home matches without fans due to racist behaviour.
Labbadia said it would be a different experience but wants Stuttgart to make the most of their encounter at home.
“It will be a big match for us, which brings our team further in any case. We desire to play this game and look forward to compete with a very good opponent,” he said.
“We want to have a good showing at home because we can create a good position for the return match.
“The return match will be difficult for both teams. To play without spectators that will be something new, but for now we are happy that we are playing at home here and want to have a good game.
“It is an appealing match to us.”
Stuttgart striker Federico Macheda, on loan from Manchester United, said it would be difficult for him to face his former club.
The Italian played in Lazio’s youth ranks in 2006-07 before his move to Old Trafford, where he has struggled for playing time.
“It is certainly a very emotional match for me. After all I have played for this club in the youth teams,” the 21-year-old said.
“I still follow the development of the team. I am also still a fan of this team. Regarding the match, this will be a difficult task for us. We know how well Lazio can play.
“On the other hand we are also ready for this game. We have a good squad. We hope that tomorrow we can show that with a good performance.”
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