Lazio face test of squad depth as fixtures, injuries and suspensions pile up

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Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi is currently undergoing one of his biggest tests of the season.

That may seem like an odd thing to read, given that his team have forgotten how to lose; last weekend’s victory over Napoli marked a club record 10th league win in a row.

In that time, they’ve ended a 30-year wait to beat AC Milan at San Siro in Serie A, a 16-year winless run at home to Juventus in the league and most recently a six-match losing run against Napoli.

It’s tempting to think Lazio can just plug in and play at the moment, that Inzaghi has little more to do than send his team out on the pitch with the instructions: “Same again, lads”.

But the coach’s skill in keeping this run going shouldn’t be underestimated – and his biggest challenge could be just around the corner.

Lazio aren’t blessed with a squad boasting enormous strength in depth, and the loss of one undisputed starter can have a big impact on the way they perform.

Inzaghi already lost his hugely influential midfield pair Lucas Leiva and Luis Alberto through suspension for the trip to Brescia at the start of the year, and their absence was felt as Lazio toiled before snatching another late win.

Captain Senad Lulic is suspended for Sampdoria’s visit on Saturday, while Francesco Acerbi and Stefan Radu will miss the following weekend’s Rome Derby if they pick up another booking.

Danilo Cataldi, who is also one yellow card away from suspension, has been ruled out for almost three weeks with an injury sustained during the midweek Coppa Italia win over Cremonese, while Joaquin Correa hasn’t recovered in time to face Samp and joins long-term absentees Adam Marusic and Jordan Lukaku in the stands.

With the injuries and suspensions piling up, much is being asked of few.

Saturday’s clash with Claudio Ranieri’s side will be the third game in a run of six matches in 15 days for the Biancocelesti, and another five are yet to come before 9 February.

The routine 4-0 win over Serie B opposition on Tuesday evening highlighted the lack of quality in depth that Inzaghi has available to him, regardless of the handsome scoreline.

Ciro Immobile, Acerbi and Luiz Felipe were all handed starting spots yet again, despite clearly being in a position where they would benefit from some rest.

The reserve players brought in to the Lazio XI from the bench included the likes of Bastos, Patric and Bobby Adekanye. They all performed well, but they are expected to be comfortable against this level of opposition.

Comparatively, some of the squad rotations rolled out by Inter and Juventus this week included bringing in Alexis Sanchez, Diego Godin, Valentino Lazaro, Gonzalo Higuain, Daniele Rugani and Federico Bernardeschi.

That, in a nutshell, is why any talk of Lazio competing for the Scudetto is premature.

Lazio’s strongest XI is the third-best in Serie A, but these players aren’t superhuman and they’ll be running on fumes or risking injury if they are made to continue at this frantic pace for much longer.

This is where Lazio’s early elimination from the Europa League may turn out to be a blessing in disguise; this busy stage of the season has tripped them up before, but now they have more time between league games to recover and work on details.

The question now is whether Claudio Lotito will choose to do something very uncharacteristic and open his chequebook during the January transfer window.

Lazio’s attack is threadbare in terms of options, and always has been. Immobile’s sensational form over the last three-and-a-half seasons has helped gloss over this fact, but the recent injury to Correa has highlighted the lack of options once again: Felipe Caicedo and Adekanye are the only other natural attackers in the squad.

Striker Lamin Jallow has been heavily linked with a move from Salernitana, Lotito’s other club, but how the 24-year-old will adapt to the demands of a Serie A Champions League race is a complete unknown.

Inzaghi is a fan of SPAL’s Alberto Paloschi, but he is another player who is unlikely to get fans off their seats in excitement.

Matias Vecino of Inter is perhaps the most interesting, high-profile player Lazio are considering for a mid-season move, but the signing would make little sense as it would only increase options in what is already the most competitive area of the squad, central midfield.

For now, this incredible wave of momentum should hopefully be enough to carry Lazio forward.

Inzaghi’s skill in the rotation and selection of his squad so far shouldn’t be underestimated, but the biggest test is yet to come.

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Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 9

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Serie A returns with a pretty decent slate capped off by the mouth-watering Milan derby on Sunday night.

Roma-Spal: the Giallorossi have solved some of their initial problems and have put together a three-game winning streak, defeating Frosinone, Lazio and Empoli. The Estensi are going in opposite direction, since have suffered four straight losses, to Fiorentina, Sassuolo, Sampdoria and Inter, after a hot start. Eusebio Di Francesco seems to have found the right scheme for his men, a 4-2-3-1 with Lorenzo Pellegrini in the hole. The youngster has been remarkable filling in for the injured Javier Pastore, to the point that there is a real competition here. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 8

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Standings implications: Juventus continue to dominate and notched their eighth straight victory in Udine, while Napoli topped Sassuolo at home. Roma and Inter extended their winning streaks in hard-fought matches against Empoli and SPAL. Lazio prevailed in the second-tier head-to-head game against Fiorentina. Sampdoria came away with a previous win from Bergamo, same for Parma, which staged a marvellous comeback against Genoa on the road. Torino and Cagliari nabbed two home Ws versus Frosinone and Bologna.

Confirmations: all the Serie A’s best striker did their thing this weekend. Krzysztof Piatek broke the deadlock with a header in the lunch match. Cristiano Ronaldo rifled one home against Udinese, Ciro Immobile found a clinical goal versus Fiorentina. Continue reading

Serie A Weekly News Recap

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The Serie A roster got completed last Sunday as Frosinone beat Palermo in the playoff final. The Rosanero lost their first appeal against the validation of the result as they believe there were some irregularities and promised to keep fighting. The Ciociari, whose promotion does not seem in danger, will play two games with closed doors because some objects were thrown onto the pitch and for time wasting by the ball boys.

There could be trouble in Parma, as the club has been deferred to the sports justice for attempted offence due to some text Emanuele Calaiò sent to some Spezia players ahead of the final and decisive game, inviting them not to play too hard. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Game Predictions – Round 38

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Let’s take a look at the most interesting games of the conclusive round.

Cagliari-Atalanta: the Sardinians are one point above Spal and Crotone and would be safe with a win, however Orobici are on the hunt for points that could allow them to leapfrog Milan and avoid the long Europa League playoff next summer. After some disappointing performances, Cagliari came to life in Florence with a key victory. The Goddess have not lost in their last seven matches. Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 36

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There were few scorers in the last round, but nobody managed to notch a brace, so there were not any particularly high point totals.

Alisson: four clean sheets in the weekend, as he has often done this year the Brazilian goalkeeper stood out with a couple of monster interventions against Cagliari, first on an attempted own goal and then coming out to shoot the gap against Marco Sau.

Andrea Ranocchia: he was inserted at the last moment as Joao Miranda got hurt in the warm-ups and he found the opener in the Udinese game with a brilliant header off a corner kick that kissed the far post before going in. He was the top earner in the last round with nine points.  Continue reading

Serie A Game of the Week – Round 26: Crotone vs Spal

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Once again, the game with the most drama in Serie A was a battle for survival in the lowest part of the standings: Crotone-Spal was not only the highest scoring game in the last weekend, but it also had an extremely impactful result.

The Sharks approached the game hoping to redeem themselves after a tough loss against another rival, Benevento, but on the road. They had fared decently at home in the last month or so, sharing the spoils Cagliari and Atalanta and defeating Chievo. On the other hand, the Estensi were looking to resume winning after eight negative results and three straight losses, which had put Leonardo Semplici on the hot seat.

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Serie A Match of the Week – Round 20

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There were some intense and high scoring matches in Serie A last week, the nod goes to the one that had the most goals: Spal-Lazio, which, despite the lopsided result, was hard-fought, especially in the first half, and, more importantly, extremely entertaining.

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Serie A Players of the Week – Round 16

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The last Serie A round was a little poor in terms of scoring and most of the top players disappointed, but there were still some very noteworthy fantasy performances.

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Serie A Best Team To Pick – Week 16

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Another interesting weekend coming up in Serie A, here is the suggested XI to pick with a 4-3-3 formation.

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