Roma v Lyon: Edin Dzeko v Alex Lacazette gives Europa League a showdown of in-form marksmen

In this competition, the pair of them are currently in razor-sharp form, with 11 goals between them, and a fetching goal-per-minute ratio of around one every 55 minutes each.

Roma's Edin Dzeko celebrates a Serie A goal against Palermo vs AS Roma, on March 12, 2017 in Palermo. Alessandro Fucarini / AFP
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Form, they say, is temporary, class permanent. For a struggling goalscorer, the phrase acts as a comfort, a touchstone when the chances do not fall as expected and the misses from close range are replayed accusingly again on television.

Edin Dzeko knows what that feels like. So does Alex Lacazette, two distinguished marksmen who meet for a place in the last eight of the Europa League in Rome on Thursday.

In this competition, the pair of them are currently in razor-sharp form, with 11 goals between them, and a fetching goal-per-minute ratio of around one every 55 minutes each.

Dzeko, whose Roma have been in the Europa League since September, has eight goals so far in the tournament, from seven appearances. Lacazette, whose Lyon dropped down from the Uefa Champions League in December, has three in three.

Both have made their mark on a pedigree last-16 tie full of goals so far, and nicely poised, with Lyon 4-2 ahead from the first leg.

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Lacazette’s handsome injury-time strike in France a week ago alters the balance marginally in the Ligue 1 club’s favour, and was reward for an outstanding display by the striker.

He had been, like many teammates, frustrated by Alisson, the Roma goalkeeper who had a fine night despite conceding four times, and his slippery turns and dribbles had exhausted Roma’s defenders.

Lacazette, 25 and admired by a number of Premier League clubs, combines great industry with excellent technique. His mastery of the volley is evidence of that.

Not so long ago, though, he suffered the sort of decline in form that made a few anxious Lyon fans wonder if his breakthrough 2014-15 season, when he finished as Ligue 1’s leading scorer with 27 goals, had been a flash in the pan.

He started the following campaign sluggishly, with just six goals — three of them in one game — in the league calendar up until Christmas. Fevered speculation about a big-money move quietened.

Dzeko, a more experienced, more travelled centre-forward, would sympathise. In the summer of 2015, he had made the big move of his career, joining Roma from a Manchester City where he had never quite lived up to the expectations City held when they bought him from Wolfsburg, in early 2011.

Dzeko had just finished as the highest scorer of the previous Bundesliga season, a penalty-box predator whose goals had also won Wolfsburg their first and only German championship in 2009.

At Roma, he initially looked marginal, static, and low on confidence. In an attacking team, Dzeko, now 30, registered only three goals before the winter break in his debut Serie A campaign.

There were some cumbersome misses, although after Luciano Spalletti returned to the club as manager in January last year, signs of a Dzeko renaissance were perceptible.

The powerful, rugged version of the Bosnia captain has come back in style this season. He has 20 goals in Serie A so far, 30 across all competitions.

“He’s a great player, and he’s never satisfied,” Spalletti said. “I have pushed him sometimes, and tell him that if he has five chances in a game and scores twice from them it’s not enough. But I won’t criticise him.”

Dzeko’s game is not as nimble, nor as pacey as Lacazette’s but he has an aerial prowess superior to that of the Frenchman.

They share similar ambitions as the season reaches its decisive stage. Dzeko is currently in second place in the list of Serie A’s leading marksmen for the season, two goals behind Torino’s Andrea Belotti. Lacazette is the second most prolific scorer in Ligue 1, with a little more catching up to do on Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani, who has five more than Lacazette’s 22.

Neither Roma nor Lyon are likely to end up as national champions, but both hold hopes that, in an open field, the Europa League is a realistic target. And Roma will want Dzeko at his menacing best to propel them back into this tie.

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