Lazio finished second behind Borussia Dortmund in Group F to qualify for the knockout stages for the first time since 2000, with reigning champions Bayern comfortably topping Group A.
After a slow start to the current campaign, Lazio’s 1-0 win over Sampdoria on Saturday moved Simone Inzaghi’s side into the top four of Serie A.
Lazio were deserved winners on the day and unfortunate not to win by a more comfortable margin, restricting Claudio Ranieri’s visitors to zero shots on target while having six themselves, with former Liverpool midfielder Luis Alberto’s first-half strike proving to be the pivotal one.
Despite ultimately progressing out of a fairly generous group alongside Dortmund, Club Brugge and Zenit St. Petersburg with an unbeaten record, Inzaghi’s side were made to work very hard for second spot, almost coming unstuck against ten-man Brugge on the final matchday.
However, the Italians are currently playing with far more confidence than they were at that stage of the season, and may well be coming up against Bayern at precisely the right moment.
Indeed, Bayern’s form is not as strong at present as it was during the autumn and winter when they took a phenomenal 16 points from their Champions League group.
The Bavarians’ lead at the top of the Bundesliga has been wiped to two points ahead of RB Leipzig after a disappointing 3-3 draw at home to Arminia Bielefeld was followed up by a 2-1 loss at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
Bayern’s defensive vulnerabilities remained clear for anyone to see, with Daichi Kamada and Amin Younes finding too much space in the opposition penalty area to give Adi Hutter’s side a 2-0 lead heading into the half-time interval, with Robert Lewandowski’s 26th league goal of the season ultimately in vein.
However, Bayern are a different beast on the continent, remaining unbeaten in their last 17 Champions League games as well as recently winning the Club World Cup. If they can defend with more organisation and determination, their offence should carry them into the quarter-finals.