Injury-hit Lazio will go into their Europa League last-32 first-leg clash against Atletico Madrid with only 11 fit players.
Manager Edy Reja has the unenviable task of guiding his stricken Serie A club against a side that has not conceded a goal in six matches.
But despite his lack of options, Reja said he was confident the side would perform well at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on Thursday.
“Of course there are some difficulties: I have only 11 effective players in total. Therefore I’ll have to include some players from the youth team,” Reja said.
“I still don’t know about the players on the bench. It seems neither (Senad) Lulic will be available. I thought some players would have recovered for the match against Atletico Madrid.”
“In any case I’m sure all players on the pitch will put in a great performance. And that’s the only way to face Atletico Madrid.”
In addition to Lulic’s likely absence, Reja has the likes of Tommaso Rocchi, Hernanes, Marius Stankevicius, Cristian Brocchi, Libor Kozak, Emiliano Alfaro, Lorik Cana, Stefano Mauri and Andre Dias all sidelined.
If the prospect of fielding a side is not daunting enough, Reja knows his team will be coming up against a formidable opponent in Atletico and said organisation would be the key to their success.
“We should be looking at this match with the right temperament,” he said.
“We know that we must not concede any goals, especially during the home leg otherwise we’ll need to do a lot more in the second leg.”
“We need to keep the balance, but we should concentrate our energies on going forward with not just two or three players, but maybe even five. We need to get the best result without conceding.”
Atletico have scored eight goals and conceded none in their previous six La Liga games, a run Reja put down largely to counterpart Diego Simeone’s tactical nous.
“We’ll be battling on the pitch against a team that hasn’t conceded any goal in the last six matches,” he said.
“(Diego) Simeone has organised his team very well and has given them a good balance.”
“They’re very good at the back, therefore it won’t be easy to face them. We must pay extra attention to their counterattacking, since they will be playing a very tactical match.”
“Up front they have four skilled players in Falcao, who is a great player. In addition they (have) Adrian Lopez and Diego Godin. We need to be careful not to grant them any space and take all the chances we get going forward.”