• Europa League

Gazza a guest of honour as Lazio take on Spurs

ESPN staff
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Paul Gascoigne was a crowd favourite at Lazio © PA Photos
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Vladimir Petkovic hopes Lazio fans will flock to see their idol Paul Gascoigne on Thursday as the Italian giants look to book their place in the knockout stages of the Europa League with victory over Tottenham.

Gascoigne will be Lazio's guest of honour at their Group J clash at the Stadio Olimpico in recognition of his iconic status at both clubs.

Gascoigne earned a reputation as the most talented English player of his generation during a successful four-year spell at Spurs before he went on to become a Lazio favourite when swapping London for Rome in 1992.

Even though Lazio will qualify for the knockout stages if they beat Spurs, ticket sales have been slow for the match, with only around 30,000 expected in the 82,000-capacity stadium.

But the Rome-based club, who sold only 8,500 tickets for their last game against Panathinaikos, hope Gascoigne's appearance will bring more supporters to the ground.

"He is a player who goes down in the history books for Lazio and everybody will be pleased to see him at the stadium,'' Lazio boss Petkovic said. "It will give the fans an added incentive to come and see the game.''

Spurs defender Steven Caulker confirmed the appreciation for Gascoigne's appearance is shared by the visitors, adding: "He was a fantastic footballer. As a football fan, him coming to the game is extremely special.''

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas heads into the match worried that Lazio's recent fine for monkey chanting will not stop some of their fans doing the same again on Thursday.

Lazio were last month fined £32,500 after UEFA found their fans guilty of chanting racist abuse towards Jermain Defoe, Andros Townsend and Aaron Lennon in September's 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane.

Villas-Boas praised the organisation for fining the Italian club but does not think that will prevent similar scenes.

"UEFA decided to punish Lazio and rightly so,'' Villas-Boas said. "It doesn't mean that incidents won't happen again on Thursday. I think the players are in the right frame of mind to leave the authorities to deal with those situations in case it happens. That's something that hopefully will not happen.''

Lazio player to watch: Mauro Zarate has found his opportunities limited almost exclusively to the Europa League this season, with just one Serie A start coming back in September. The Argentina striker looks set to leave the club in January, and now that he's on the look out for a new employer, he might have a little extra motivation to score his first goal of the season.

Tottenham player to watch: Emmanuel Adebayor hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons after red card against former club Arsenal in Spurs' 5-2 defeat at the weekend. Having struggled to hold down a place in the starting XI under Andre Villas-Boas, Adebayor needs a big performance in Rome to atone for his derby day misdemeanors.

Betting: Back Zarate to break his Europa League duck in a Lazio win at odds of 9/1 with bet365.

Prediction: 2-1

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