Unpredictable Bastos provides timely reminder of improvement at Lazio

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The last week has served as a neat summary of the highs and lows of Bastos’ time at Lazio.

Last Wednesday in the Coppa Italia final against Atalanta, the Angolan was entrusted with a starting spot ahead of the experienced Stefan Radu after playing a key role in the capital club’s cup run.

In the space of 36 minutes, the centre-back was booked for a reckless tackle, enraged the Bergamo club with a potential handball inside the box that was missed by match officials, and was substituted for Radu as coach Simone Inzaghi lost faith in the 28-year-old’s ability to avoid a second yellow card. Continue reading

Lazio must dust off chequebook to ward off Juventus interest in Simone Inzaghi

Simone Inzaghi

As the haze from the post-Coppa Italia celebrations begins to clear, some images are stronger than others.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic rising higher than anyone to head in the opener. Joaquin Correa bursting through the Atalanta defence to seal Lazio’s seventh win in the competition.

And Simone Inzaghi being lifted on the shoulders of his players after masterminding the 2-0 victory from the touchline.

It was the crowning achievement of Inzaghi’s tenure in charge of the Roman club and one that silenced the critics, who had started to emerge after an inconsistent season in which he failed to achieve the objective of Champions League qualification. Continue reading

Five points for Lazio to take from defeat in Coppa Italia final dress rehearsal

Ciro Immobile

The biggest game of Lazio’s season is now less than a week away and, after last weekend’s 3-1 defeat to Atalanta, they could be playing for more than just silverware.

The Serie A loss came at a cost, leaving the Roman club all-but out of the top four race but also in danger of missing out on a European spot altogether as they lie in eighth place.

Lifting the Coppa Italia trophy in the final next Wednesday night would not only restore a feel-good factor to a largely underwhelming campaign for the Roman club, but ensure them of a place in next season’s Europa League.

Facing their fellow finalists in the same venue just 10 days before the main event provided a rare and valuable opportunity to scout out potential strengths and weaknesses – so what lessons can Simone Inzaghi and his team learn from it? Continue reading

AC Milan 0-1 Lazio: The Rossoneri fail to reach Coppa Italia final

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Gattuso’s men didn’t create anything up front and were subsequently punished by Lazio, who snatched the ticket to the Coppa Italia final. Another disappointing result for Milan, who have a lot to work on ahead of Sunday’s clash with Torino. 

The early stages of the game offered poor play from both sides, as neither of them managed to get a grip of the game, which resulted in a lot of wasteful passes. However, eventually, Milan got a hold of the possession but failed to create chances up front, while Lazio looked dangerous on the counter attacks.

The Rossoneri’s first chance came after nearly 30 minutes of play. Calabria tried his luck with a left-footed effort on the edge of the box, and Strakosha had to stretch to reach the ball, which was destined for the bottom corner. In addition to this, Suso had an opportunity in the latter stages of the first half, but completely failed to hit the target with a disappointing effort.

Lazio had the final say of the first 45 as Correa linked up brilliantly with Immobile, starting on the left side. The former, however, was stopped by Pepe Reina in goal, who made a great save to keep his team in the game. The first half ended with everything still to play for in the second.

Both teams suffered two tough injuries, as Milinkovic-Savic and Calabria were subbed off. The latter received a knock and was replaced by Conti, while the Lazio star slipped and twisted his ankle in a nasty situation. For the Biancocelesti, it could potentially be devastating in the race for Champions League, should Milinkovic-Savic miss several games.

In the second half, Lazio really showed why they deserved to go through this evening. Reina kept Milan in the game on several occasions, making a few impressive saves in the process. Despite the warning signs, the Rossoneri were unable to respond, as Correa gave Lazio the lead after 58th minutes. A brilliant counter-attack was finished off by the Argentinian, and so Milan needed to score two goals.

Evidently, they failed to do so. In fact, they didn’t even get close, bar an offside goal by Cutrone. In other words, the performance was very disappointing, and the Rossoneri are clearly lacking creativity in the attacking phase. The formation change really didn’t help them either, as Lazio were able to run down the clock with ease, while Gattuso’s men tried to attack without any success.

Given that Juventus won’t be in the Coppa Italia final this year, it’s certainly a big chance missed for Milan. A trophy would’ve done the team well, even though Champions League obviously would’ve remained the primary target in any case. However, that is no excuse for putting in a poor display, especially when a spot in a final is on the line. Now a tough away clash against Torino awaits, one which is decisive for the target mentioned above.

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Fantasy Football Managers? If you want to test your knowledge of Italian football then play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

Federico Chiesa: Italy’s Latest Controversial Superstar

ACF Fiorentina v AC Milan - Serie A

Italian football are no strangers to their misunderstood and controversial superstars. Before Mario Balotelli emerged on the scene, there was Antonio Cassano. And before them came Roma’s iconic bad-boy Francesco Totti. While calcio’s latest exploit, Federico Chiesa, has done nowhere near enough to steal the headlines alongside these players, the Fiorentina winger is attracting attention for all the wrong reasons at the moment.

Since emerging through the ranks at Fiorentina, Chiesa has established himself as one of Italy’s elite talents and will undoubtedly become a cornerstone of Roberto Mancini’s Azzurri setup moving forward. Comfortable with playing on either wing, the 21-year-old has arguably developed into la Viola’s most important player in the final third, and has even added end product to his game this season.

Deploying him alongside Giovanni Simeone, and Luis Muriel, Fiorentina boss Stefano Pioli has been able to get the most out of his talented winger. Currently, Chiesa has scored five goals and registered three assists in league play, all-while propelling Fiorentina into a race for the Europa League and deep into the Coppa Italia – a competition in which, alone, he’s got six goals.

Outside of his ability to find the back of the net, Chiesa has also been effective at feeding his teammates. At the moment, the Italian international is averaging 1.8 key passes per game and has been a constant menace on the counter attack with his impressive turn of pace.

Despite his recent exploits, the press surrounding Chiesa has never been worse. While the 21-year-old is capable of the extravagant on the ball, he’s also developed a reputation for diving, and manipulating the referees. If it were a one-off occurrence, it wouldn’t be an issue. However, just this season alone Chiesa’s antics have infuriated the masses, and he’s been labelled as enemy number one from rival fan-bases.

Most recently, Chiesa undeservedly earned Fiorentina another penalty shot, this time coming in their Coppa Italia clash against Atalanta. It would inevitably prove to be the difference as La Viola earned a 3-3 draw going into the second leg. Earlier this season, the Fiorentina winger Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini had some select words for Chiesa after the game.

“Chiesa? The penalty was a farce. It’s an episode that hurts the player’s reputation more than anything,” said Gasperini to Quotidiano.net. 

With a number of suitors, both abroad and within Italy, heavily after Chiesa including Roma and Tottenham Hotspur among others, the young winger will have to curb this bad habit. Otherwise, it may prevent him from reaching the very top.

There’s no denying Chiesa’s talent and versatility in the final third, however, clubs will think twice before making him their marquee signing if his diving antics persist. As Chiesa is about to enter a crucial stage in his career – a point where many Italian talents in the past have tailed off – it’s time for Chiesa to put the theatrics behind him once and for all and put his footballing development first. If not, calcio fans may be witnessing Domenico Berardi 2.0; a scary prospect indeed.

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Fantasy Football Managers? If you want to test your knowledge of Italian football then play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

Lazio 0-0 AC Milan: Everything to play for in second leg after defensive display

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AC Milan were held to a goalless draw at the Olimpico by Lazio, making things very interesting ahead of the second leg at San Siro, though Rossoneri fans would’ve hoped for an away goal. 

With the likes of Calabria and Suso returning to the starting eleven, many expected Gattuso’s men to be much more of a threat than what they actually were. Throughout the game, Milan struggled to create chances up front, more or less sending the ball towards a very isolated Piatek every attack. As you can imagine, this proved unsuccessful, though the alternatives didn’t do much more for the guests.

Lazio had the right desire to force their way forward, managing to test Donnarumma a few times. However, no major chances were created for Inzaghi’s men either, even though one could argue that they deserved a goal in the first half. In any case, it was a defensive-minded affair, just like the games last season (also in the Coppa Italia semi-final).

Then, both games ended 0-0, taking the two-legged tie to penalties. This time out we could certainly have the same scenario come April, when the second leg will be played. With that said, it’s clear that Milan will have to step up their game plan ahead of next time. The Biancocelesti managed to deal with the Rossoneri quite easily in many aspects of the game, which is something Gattuso shouldn’t be happy with, given the players he has at his disposal.

In addition to the game plan, some of the players that Milan usually rely on didn’t turn up today, at least if we’re talking in an attacking perspective. Bakayoko failed to live up to his usual standards, getting dispossessed several times, which affected the entire midfield trio. Kessie was also forced to leave with an injury in the first half, certainly not making things better.

Milan’s tricky winger, Suso, was a huge disappointment as he barely created anything up front. In fact, the Spaniard never seemed to settle properly, and was rightfully taken off in favour of Castillejo, who immediately showed that he can be of use in the second leg. Then again, most of the attackers were isolated during long periods of the game, as Lazio continued to look for an opener.

Looking at the big picture, 0-0 is certainly not a bad result for Gattuso’s men, especially given how today’s match developed. On the other hand, Lazio only need one away goal to really put the Rossoneri under pressure, meaning that the defence will once again be key. Hopefully, Gattuso will be able to combine these two in a better game plan, also perhaps looking over the starting eleven once more.

However, for now, he’ll have to shift focus back to the league, as Sassuolo will visit the San Siro on Saturday evening. A very important game for AC Milan in the race for a top-four finish.

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Fantasy Football Managers? If you want to test your knowledge of Italian football then play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

Moment of truth arrives as toothless Lazio face season crossroads

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

February has not been a month to remember for Lazio.

After January ended on the high of a penalty shoot-out victory over Inter in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals, fatigue and niggles combine to produce a destructive injury crisis that has left the club facing a crossroads in their campaign.

Simone Inzaghi managed to squeeze his depleted team through wins over relegation strugglers Frosinone and Empoli, but defeats in both legs of their Europa League last 32 meeting with Sevilla, either side of surrendering a lead in the final 15 minutes to lose against Genoa, has left the club in a make-or-break situation when they face AC Milan and Roma this week. Continue reading

Inter must clinch Coppa semi-final spot or Spalletti’s position will be at risk

spalletti

According to the latest reports from Rome-based newspaper Corriere dello Sport, senior figures within Inter’s hierarchy are worried by the inconsistency of their side this season. While the Nerazzurri are comfortably positioned in third place, they are eight points behind Napoli and a further eleven off top spot. Indeed, the most worrying aspect of the team’s recent run of poor form is the fact that they have scored just four goals in their last seven Serie A matches – the Beneamata have yet to score a league goal in 2019. Continue reading

Piatek’s inspiring AC Milan debut bodes well for the future

Although they didn’t grab all three points, AC Milan managed to keep an offensive-minded Napoli eleven from scoring last night, earning a well-deserved point to keep hold of fourth place in the standings.

The game itself was very much end-to-end stuff, with both sides looking dangerous on the counter-attacks, though failing to keep their composure in the vital moments. In other words, the game could certainly have gone either way, and thus one could argue that a draw is a fair result.

Of course, the Rossoneri would’ve hoped to snatch all three points, but the composure needed just wasn’t there, although the game offered some promising signs ahead of the remainder of the season. Naming one, Gattuso’s men are looking more and more solid at the back after a rocky start to the season in that aspect, with Romagnoli being the captain Milan so badly need.

In addition to this, the attack is more energetic than it was just a few weeks ago, New signing Paqueta has been linking up perfectly with Calhanoglu, and although the latter has received a lot of criticism, he certainly offered a lot to the team last night. However, there is still some work to be done in regards to the end product, though there’s no doubt this will come with time.

Up front, Cutrone had a tough game last night, though he wasn’t by any means poor, just not as effective as he can be with the ball. Therefore, Gattuso brought on another new signing, Piatek, who got roughly 20 minutes to show for his worth. To the delight of the Rossoneri fans, he proved how lethal he can be when receiving the ball in the box.

Just five minutes after coming on, Piatek created some space for himself with a great first touch to bring the ball into his stride. However, Koulibaly made a great tackle to deny the Polish striker’s attempt. On the following corner, Piatek was once again on the end of the ball, heading it through to Musacchio. The defender was forced to try an acrobatic shot which Ospina denied brilliantly.

In other words, the €35m man was thrown straight into the action, and really took the opportunity to impress coach Gattuso. In fact, as reported by Sky Italia, the 40-year-old will most likely field the same lineup against Napoli on Tuesday (Coppa Italia), with the exception being Piatek, who could replace Cutrone upfront.

Likely AC Milan XI (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Calabria, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Kessie, Bakayoko, Paqueta; Suso, Piatek, Calhanoglu.

Hopefully, the Rossoneri will have learned from Saturday’s encounter, using this in their advantage on Tuesday evening. After all, a spot in the semi-finals of Coppa Italia is on the line, making it an important game.

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Fantasy Football Managers? If you want to test your knowledge of Italian football then play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

Politano: “We’re focused and determined to do well”

Politano

During an exclusive interview with Sky Sport, Inter winger Matteo Politano looked ahead to this weekend’s match against Sassuolo. Saturday’s encounter with the Neroverdi does of course hold special significance for the 25-year-old given the fact he spent three years playing for them in Reggio Emilia. Here is what he had to say as he prepares to face his former teammates at San Siro: Continue reading