Four reasons Lazio still have much to play for in Serie A finale


A wild and wonderful Lazio season comes to an end on Saturday when they travel south to face Coppa Italia holders Napoli.

Gennaro Gattuso’s side have nothing but pride left to play for in the league, as they are guaranteed to finish seventh regardless of the result.

On the face of it, Lazio have little on the line either. They can still finish anywhere between second or fourth, but a Champions League spot is guaranteed either way.

Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find a few reasons to get excited about the climactic moment of a memorable campaign for the Biancocelesti.

Ciro Immobile’s quest for history

The Neapolitan striker returns to his home city to try and top off his virtuoso campaign with a brace that would see him steal a Serie A record off Napoli.

Gonzalo Higuain currently holds the single season scoring record in Italy’s top division, having netted 36 times under Maurizio Sarri in the 2015/16 campaign.

Immobile goes into Saturday’s clash at the San Paolo on 35, meaning that one goal would see him equal the record and two would write his name into the history books as the solitary record holder.

He has, to be fair, already made history. Immobile will win the European golden boot for 2019/20, barring a five-goal miracle from Cristiano Ronaldo against Roma.

He will be the first player who isn’t Ronaldo, Lionel Messi or Luis Suarez to win the award in 11 years, and the first Italian to clinch it since Francesco Totti in 2006/07.

Luis Alberto chases record of his own

Spanish playmaker Alberto has been the creative force driving Lazio’s unexpected Scudetto challenge this season, and has a record of his own in his sights.

It could be a weekend to remember for the midfielder, who is close to agreeing a new contract in Rome until 2025.

Alberto has recorded more assists than any other Serie A player this season with 15, but has Atalanta’s Papu Gomez breathing down his neck on 14.

Having Lazio players finishing on the top of both goal and assist charts would be a fitting reward for the remarkable seasons of Immobile and Alberto; if the Spaniard is able to put the bullets in the chamber for the striker on his goal hunt, all the better.

A finish fitting of a memorable season

This is already Lazio’s best-ever season in a 20-team division.

Their current haul of 78 points is not only 19 more than they mustered last term, but the largest tally the capital club has ever recorded.

Even when they won the Scudetto in 2000, they only mustered 72 points – although there is the rather large caveat that they played four fewer games in an 18-team division then.

But smashing the 80-point barrier would be an enormous achievement for a club many thought wouldn’t even be capable of challenging for the top four at the start of the season.

This season will be remembered as their best ever statistically, regardless of what happens in Naples – the most points, most wins and most goals by a single player in the club’s history.

That being considered, it would seem a shame for the team to only muster a fourth-place finish, having come third as recently as 2015.

On the final day Inter and Atalanta face one another while Lazio take on Napoli, and the possibility of the Aquile moving into second place is still alive; if they win and the two Nerazzurri clubs draw.

A runners-up spot may not be what many Biancocelesti players and fans had hoped for after challenging Juventus up until the break, but it would mark their highest Serie A finish since winning the league 20 years ago – a fitting tribute to their efforts.

Reassuring the worriers

There is one final reason to tune in. An unlikely series of events occurring next month could yet make Lazio’s trip to Napoli decisive.

If Roma win the Europa League and the Neapolitans win the Champions League, fourth place in Serie A will be demoted to a Europa League spot, as no more than five clubs are permitted entry to Europe’s top tournament.

This is highly unlikely. Not only are the two Italian sides far from favourites in their respective tournaments, but we haven’t seen Serie A sides win both major European cups since 1994.

Still, given Lazio’s record of bad luck in their efforts to end a 13-year absence from the Champions League, moving into the top three would settle the nerves of the more pessimistic fans.

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