Lazio stand united as season teeters on knife-edge

Lazio Chievo

The message was clear – this is not a punishment, but a moment to address the elephant in the room.

Lazio’s failure to beat rock-bottom Chievo last weekend, a game that they needed to come from behind to take a point from, sparked an inevitable wave of criticism and pushed the club hierarchy into calling the first ‘ritiro’ of Simone Inzaghi’s reign.

It was the capital club’s third league draw in a row, with a dismal Europa League defeat to Apollon Limassol coming between those results, and came at a cost as Milan leapfrogged the Biancocelesti into the fourth and final Champions League spot they are so desperate to make their own. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 15

juventusinter

The next round features one of the games of the season, Juventus-Inter, and few other juicy match-ups.

Juventus-Inter: the Bianconeri got the better of Fiorentina, extending their winning streak to five fixtures, but in that occasion they were not as dominant as the final score showed. Against Roma, Inter dropped points for the second time in a row on the road and, despite scoring twice, they never looked in control. The same thing happened in Bergamo, but they are extremely opportunistic, so they can never be counted out. Cristiano Ronaldo added one to his tally with a penalty in Florence, while Rodrigo Bentancur continues to impress. Mario Mandzukic is generally money in big matches, while Douglas Costa has the potential to be a factor off the bench. Despite being useful in other areas, Paulo Dybala’s offensive stats in Serie A have been subpar. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 14

pellissier

Standings implications: Juventus continue to roll and toppled Fiorentina, but Napoli outlasted Atalanta away. Roma showed great character against and the big match of the round ended in a 2-2 draw. Milan put together a gritty comeback against Parma: a valuable result that allowed them to leapfrog Lazio, which got halted by Chievo. Sampdoria finally got a win trouncing Bologna, which are officially in trouble. SPAL and Empoli shared the spoils in a very well played game, similarly to Frosinone and Cagliari. Torino downed Genoa with two quick goals at the end of the first half, while Sassuolo-Udinese was scoreless. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 14

immobile

Wojciech Szczesny: the Polish goalkeeper has been a major contributor in two of the last three Juventus wins. They have the best scoring defense in the League, which usually tightens up in the more difficult matches, and will square off against a team that has failed to score more than once in their past seven fixtures.

Francesco Acerbi: Chievo are showing signs of improvements, but they have been dismal offensively so far, netting just ten total goals and finding the target only in three of their seven home games. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 14

fiorentinajuventus

The next Serie A slate is pretty tasty on paper.

Fiorentina-Juventus: the Viola are having a weird season. They started off decently, showing well especially at home, where they are still undefeated and have a sound defense, but they have struggled to score recently. They have not netted more than one since late September and they have drawn in their last five matches, against Cagliari, Torino, Roma, Frosinone and Bologna. On the other hand, the Old Lady is cruising with 12 wins in the year, four in a row after the tumble against Genoa, but it will be tested before the break. Fiorentina’s offensive problems stem primarily from Giovanni Simeone and Marko Pjaca’s poor form, as they have combined for just three goals so far. Federico Chiesa is always doing stuff, but he has not bagged many as well. Continue reading

Top Four On The Line As Lazio Clash With Milan

With an injury-riddled Milan coming into the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday, Lazio have to take full advantage and extend their lead in fourth place over the rossoneri by four points. As Alessio Romagnoli, Mattia Caldara and Mateo Musacchio can only look on from the sideline, Lazio talisman Ciro Immobile will look to have a field day against a makeshift Milan defence.

While, as of late, Milan have had Lazio’s number, remaining undefeated against them in their last three clashes, Gennaro Gattuso’s side face a tall task in the nation’s capital this time around. Going into the game without their first choice centre-back pairing as well as Giacomo Bonaventura and Gonzalo Higuain among other notable absentees, the rossoneri are reportedly resorting to a subdued 4-4-1-1 with Calhanoglu pairing Cutrone in attack. Lazio, by contrast, will be at full strength, and will likely field their usual 3-5-1-1 with Luis Alberto playing behind Ciro Immobile.

After a relatively inconsistent start to the season, Lazio have since picked up form, only losing once in their last seven games in all competitions. This upturn in form has seen them leapfrog both Milan and Roma in the standings for the fourth and final Champions League spot, something Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi will be holding onto dearly. After all, missing out on Europe’s elite competition last season meant stalwart defender Stefan de Vrij joined Inter in the summer.

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Time For Mancini To Look To Patrick Cutrone

After yet another toothless display against Portugal, Azzurri fans are crying for a fresh start in the final third. Something clearly needs to change as it’s the first time in Italy’s illustrious history that they go winless in six consecutive home games. With the side struggling for goals, Italy boss Roberto Mancini has tried everything to get his side firing again.

When the false-nine experiment with Lorenzo Insigne didn’t quite pan out, the former Inter tactician reinstated Ciro Immobile into the fold. While the Lazio man is prolific at club level, he’s yet to translate that form in Azzurro blu and has a mere seven goals in 35 appearances for the national team, most of which came against second-tier sides. As Italy look to restore themselves as a European superpower on the international scene, it’s time to start anew and give Milan’s Patrick Cutrone a shot at the role.

In the past, Immobile and Andrea Belotti have been given an opportunity to make the number nine spot their own, yet have regularly failed to impressed when tasked with leading the line. Other than not finding the back of the net, they both rarely involved themselves in the buildup and typically cut a frustrated figure until they were eventually subbed off. While both have demonstrated they have a keen eye for goal in Serie A, neither of them has demonstrated they have the character to play for Italy and went missing in action in Gli Azzurri’s crucial game against Sweden.

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Ciro Immobile’s critics are wrong – it’s time for Italy to embrace the King of Lazio

Immobile in action for Italy against Portugal

Ciro Immobile is Italy’s best striker. This is an opinion, but were you to water down the essential responsibility of a forward to scoring goals, it becomes a fact.

Finding the net is something the 28-year-old has done with stunning regularity since joining Lazio in the summer of 2016. In just over two years in Rome, he has notched 76 goals in 104 appearances, including a 41-goal haul last season that saw him crowned as joint-top scorer in both Serie A and the Europa League.

His incredible strike rate has shown no signs of slowing down this season, with Immobile having already scored eight league goals, one less than leading scorer Krzysztof Piatek and the same number as a certain Cristiano Ronaldo.

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Resurgence of forgotten man Danilo Cataldi indicative of Lazio’s improved squad depth

Danilo Cataldi

The scars of the 2017/18 season finale will take some time to heal for Lazio fans.

A final-day collapse to Inter saw the Roman club throw away a Champions League spot, before star defender Stefan de Vrij headed to their conquerors on a free transfer, soon to be joined in the departure lounge by West Ham-bound Felipe Anderson.

This came little over a month after the Aquile had conceded three goals in four minutes to throw away a Europa League semi-final place to RB Salzburg.

Inevitably, you didn’t need to venture far at the time to find the usual forecasts of doom and decline as Lazio looked to avoid being stripped of assets like Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Ciro Immobile and Luis Alberto.

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Serie A Team of the Week – Round 11

mertens

Samir Handanovic (7 points): five clean sheets in the weekend, by Inter, Milan, Frosinone, Parma and Sassuolo, but there was no particularly superb performance by any goalie, so Handanovic gets the nod by default because he has earned the most points so far in the season and he is also the most owned in the bunch.

Alessio Romagnoli (8 points): it is hard to believe that a centre-back could be involved in late goals in two games in a row, but this was the case for the Milan captain. The one versus Genoa was more impromptu, while in Udine he followed a fast-break and punished an howler by the back-line with a powerful strike from inside the box. Continue reading