Lazio boss Maurizio Sarri makes bold Celtic claim ahead of Champions League tie

Lazio manager Maurizio Sarri speaks to the press ahead of facing Celtic. (Photo: Marco Rosi - SS Lazio)
Lazio manager Maurizio Sarri speaks to the press ahead of facing Celtic. (Photo: Marco Rosi - SS Lazio)

Lazio started their campaign with a 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid while Celtic lost 2-0 to Feyenoord. But Sarri felt Celtic deserved more from their performance in Rotterdam before having two men sent off and he dismissed a predictable question from the Italian media about whether he expected a physical encounter in Scotland.

Speaking at a Celtic Park media conference, the former Chelsea manager said: “Celtic are the least physical team in the group, they are a technical side and play with great intensity. If you mean the most intense physical game then yes, but not in the other sense. I think Celtic can be the dark horse of this group. Celtic are a very dangerous side, they play with great intensity, speed and movement. I was surprised at how technically well they play.”

On facing Rodgers again, he added: “This is a completely different team than Leicester, more speed and quality. I like him very much, I think he is a very good manager. He had three years in Liverpool and a very good career.”

Both Sarri and Ciro Immobile faced questions about recent controversial comments and criticisms. The manager dismissed suggestions the game was a chance to bounce back from a difficult start to their Serie A campaign, which sees them sit 16th with seven points from seven matches.

“This is a match in its own right, it takes care of itself,” Sarri said. “Champions League points are at stake and no other motivation is needed. If we can take it to the last match and still be in with a chance of qualifying, that’s our only focus. We will have a strategy but it will be more about character than tactics.”

Immobile is one of the few survivors of the Europa League meetings between the teams four seasons ago, both of which Celtic won. “The last match here I was on the bench,” the 33-year-old said. “I was actually able to watch the game more, take it all in and appreciate the atmosphere. Both Celtic and Lazio have changed a lot since then but I have told my team-mates what to expect.”