Controversy in Ligue 1 as Rennes get game delayed

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There has been some controversy in Ligue 1 this past weekend when Rennes were able to get their game against Nimes postponed until a later date. This was only confirmed a few days before the game as the club requested permission from the LFP- which accepted, but why did Rennes want their game postponed?

The reason was that they could prepare and have more time to get ready for their crucial Europa League last 16 match with Premier League team Arsenal. Whilst this has worked out perfectly for the club, it has also caused some problems in the league as well as elsewhere.

Take PSG who constantly are involved in the Champions League- PSG have never had the benefit of having a game postponed, instead the LFP have usually let the club play on a Saturday afternoon if the game is on Wednesday or a Friday night if the game is on Tuesday, but getting a postponement, never. Has the LFP just opened up a can of worms? If they allow one team in Rennes to have their game called off then surely other teams can claim for the same treatment?

Of course from Rennes point of view this is good news and the extra preparation and rest could well be beneficial to them. Take Arsenal their opponents in the Europa League who were not given the same luxury as they had to play at the weekend in a North London derby no less against Tottenham which they drew 1-1. But it was yet another game for Unai Emery’s men who remain competitive in the league where they are chasing a top 4 spot.

No official complaint has come from Arsenal but Rennes will get a massive 8 day rest and Arsenal fans have vented their anger and what looks like a clear disadvantage for the Gunners coming into the game.

Should the buck therefore not stop at the LFP but instead be referred to UEFA? After all if there is a postponement , delay or crowd trouble it is usually UEFA that has final say. With the Europa League being a UEFA competition, wouldn’t they want more clarity and fairness?

It will be interesting to see if Rennes can get past Arsenal, and if so will they require Ligue 1 to stop again for them for the quarter finals? And surely PSG will now look at this and start requesting delays to their games.

What the LFP has done only feels acceptable if other leagues with their top teams allow them the same gesture, as it stands, this simply feels unfair not only to Arsenal but of course to Nimes, whose fans had already bought tickets to travel from the south of France to the North west for this match and now will be turned away.

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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

Three Things Lazio Need To Do To Get European Dream On Track

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Following their last-gasp defeat against Genoa, serious doubt was cast over Lazio’s top four hopes. The biancocelesti now find themselves four points behind Milan, and three back of fierce rivals Roma. Factor in a narrow first leg defeat in the Europa League against Sevilla, and you quickly see that Lazio’s Champions League dream is quickly fading. Here are three things Simone Inzaghi must do to get his side back on track in the race for top four.

1) Inzaghi must decide his best eleven, once and for all. 

Over the course of this season, Inzaghi has often tinkered with his starting eleven, leading many to believe he’s not yet aware of what his best lineup is. While injuries have constrained his choices, Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic are set to return this week. With 14 games left to the season, Lazio cannot afford another slip-up, especially considering Milan’s red-hot form. Ciro Immobile is undoubtedly the first name on the team-sheet, but who should accompany him up top is not always clear. Joaquin Correa has proven to be dangerous, but typically thrives in a three-pronged attack, which allows him the freedom to drift wide.

When deployed alongside Immobile in a two-striker setup, Correa often leaves the Italian striker isolated as he roams freely. With Luis Alberto returning to the fold against Sevilla this week, Inzaghi would be wise to field a three-man attack with the Spaniard and Correa flanking Immobile. Against Juventus, this tactic worked wonders and if it weren’t for their own wastefulness, the biancocelesti could have put the tie to bed early in the second half.

With Milinkovic-Savic and Lucas Leiva in the midfield, Lazio will have all the solidity they need without compromising offensive firepower. Against Sevilla this week, Inzaghi’s men will need to be at their best if they are to overturn the tie, and could do so with this lineup. Let’s not forget – a Europa League win equals safe passage into next year’s Champions League.

2) Beat the teams below them. 

This one is rather obvious but could prove to be crucial in their hopes for European football. All too often Lazio are guilty of stooping down to the level of their opposition and giving them a chance at beating them. Just recently in their 1-0 win over Empoli, Lazio were wholly unconvincing and gave the Serie A minnows ample opportunities to hurt them. Luckily for them, they were able to nick a goal against the run of play and maintain the pace at the top. The same occurred the week before against Frosinone and will continue to happen if it goes unaddressed.

This season, Inzaghi’s men have dropped points against Serie A’s mid-table sides including the likes of Genoa, Torino, Chievo, and Sassuolo. While on their day all these sides possess quality and enterprise to take on any team in the league, Lazio should be claiming all three points regularly against the provinciali. With the season soon coming to a close, this is a pattern Inzaghi will be looking to rectify immediately.

3) Alter their shot selection and stop being wasteful in front of goal. 

Only Juventus and Napoli take more shots than Lazio in Serie A, as the biancocelesti are currently averaging 17 shots per game. Yet, that doesn’t always translate to goals. Right now, Lazio have the fewest goals scored of any side chasing top four football and would have the fewest goals scored in the entire top half of the table if it weren’t for Walter Mazzarri’s Torino.

At the moment, Lazio are not only being wasteful in front of goal, but they’re also firing low percentage shots. Moving forward, Lazio should prioritize high quality chances over the long-range screamers they seem to be enjoying. Inzaghi’s men would be wise to play that extra pass instead of firing away from outside the eighteen-yard box. With players like Luis Alberto and Correa, they can afford to take on an extra man or take a few extra touches before sliding through a teammate.

If they are to qualify for Champions League football, they’re going to need to start scoring more – starting with their clashes against Sevilla and Udinese. Fewer shots of higher quality will yield better results than shots from just about anywhere – a lesson Inzaghi’s men must learn sooner rather than later.

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Injuries pile up as Lazio’s fight on three fronts takes its toll

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The result of the Coppa Italia quarter-finals at the end of January left Lazio fans glowing with pride.

Not only had they overcome Inter on penalties to book a place in the final four, ending their big-team hoodoo in the process, but they became the only Italian team left competing in three competitions after Juventus, Roma and Napoli joined the Nerazzurri in being dumped out of the cup.

It was an admirable achievement, but one that might come at a cost if the club’s Europa League defeat to Sevilla on Thursday is anything to go by. In 90 minutes the squad was decimated as coach Simone Inzaghi’s first-team injury list grew into double figures. Continue reading

Five New Year’s resolutions for Lazio in 2019

Lazio v Salzburg - UEFA Europa League - Quarter Final - First Leg - Stadio Olimpico

Lazio enter the new year with a spring in their step, having rediscovered a winning formula and returned to the top four in time for bells.

But before they return to competitive action with the visit of Novara in the Coppa Italia on Saturday, here are some suggested resolutions that would make the year ahead a memorable one for Simone Inzaghi and his players.

Reach the Champions League

The undisputed No.1 target for the club is to achieve the goal that so agonisingly eluded them on the final day of the 2017/18 season: qualify for the Champions League. It has been 11 years now since the club’s fans have been able to hear the famous anthem ring around the Stadio Olimpico in the group stage, with some near misses coming in the interim period. Continue reading

Struggling Lazio must channel Francesco Acerbi’s warrior spirit

Lazio v SPAL Serie A 4/11/2018.

Francesco Acerbi is a man on a mission.

The centre-back is the dictionary definition of an ever-present, a player with a warrior spirit who refuses to yield an inch of grass on the pitch – or a single minute of game time.

The 30-year-old had a seemingly tough task ahead of him when he arrived at Lazio from Sassuolo in the summer as the chosen successor to Stefan De Vrij, one of the greatest defenders to have pulled on a sky-blue shirt in at least a decade.

Within a matter of weeks, the Dutchman was a distant memory.

Perhaps the greatest compliment Acerbi can be paid for his adaptation to life at one of Continue reading

Does Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp avoid pressure on job due to media love in?

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Jurgen Klopp is probably one of the most friendliest and down to Earth managers in the game today. If we think of the German, manager of Liverpool our thoughts are immediate: His smile, laughter and his set of perfect teeth. He is a dedicated football man who wants nothing more than to win trophies- but after 3 seasons at Liverpool he has failed in that department. Why is it then that Klopp for the most part has avoided any pressure on his job despite spending hundreds of millions on players?

A certain Jose Mourinho at Liverpool must feel dumbfounded at times at the pressure on him, which is pretty much constant despite winning 2 major trophies with Manchester United since he joined the club in 2015. The Red Devils also put in a solid season last, no trophies but finishing 2nd to perhaps the greatest side ever to grace the Premier League in Manchester City. As others have pointed out most other seasons and United would have been champions with the points that had been amassed.

What gives then? Why do certain managers feel the wrath of pressure when failing when others don’t when doing the same thing? Think of Mourinho like we just have with Klopp, what comes into your mind? Mourinho comes across as glum, downtrodden, he hardly breaks a smile even when his team wins and he is critical of players through the press. And this seems to be one of the redeeming answers, Klopp doesn’t get the back pages attacking him because the media love him.

And the media are in love with him because in almost every press conference he is smiling and happy go lucky. At times it seems like the real Liverpool manager is waiting in the wings whilst Klopp kicks off the show with a comedy routine. He is infectious and a real charmer. Think of when he was caught smoking a year or so back by a paparazzi photographer. The news was forgotten within 24 hours, now imagine that was Mourinho or Pep Guardiola, or the new Arsenal boss Unai Emery- that photo and story would run for years. England loves Klopp and Klopp loves England, and that is all very well.

However surely Klopp’s time at Liverpool will be remembered for reaching cup finals and losing. A Champions League last season and a Europa League defeat a few seasons back are evidence. It is incredible with the way Liverpool have invested and played how they have nothing to show for it apart from some memorable games and goals.

One hopes that Klopp stays around in the Premier League, football needs more of him- but at the same time isn’t it time to start passing judgment on how his record as a coach will stand at Liverpool?

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.

Continue reading

Gattuso finally gets it right for Milan with two crucial substitutions

The Rossoneri were expected to grab all three points against Olympiacos at San Siro earlier this evening with relative ease. However, as became evident during the game, it was easier said than done, much due to the Rossoneri’s wasteful approach in front of goal. 

However, as opposed to what we saw at the start of the season, Milan didn’t exactly crumble in the first 20 minutes, instead they took charge of the game quite easily. In fact, they could have taken the lead already after five minutes as Bonaventura headed Suso’s cross beautifully, though Castillejo, who was in an offside position, decided to get the final touch to deny the goal. Continue reading

Europa League is of utmost importance to Arsenal

Arsenal’s entire season came down to the Europa League last term. Who knows, had the Gunners progressed past Atletico Madrid in the semi finals and gone on to win the competition, qualifying for the Champions League, Arsene Wenger might well have stayed beyond the summer.

Indeed, the 2017/18 campaign hinged on Arsenal’s success or failure in European club football’s second tier tournament. It became clear early on in the season that they would miss out on a place in the Premier League’s top four and so the Europa League became the most realistic route back into the Champions League.

Alexandre Lacazette

The Gunners find themselves in a not too dissimilar position this season. The Unai Emery age at the club has got off to a slow start with many of the problems experienced under Wenger still evident under the new manager. Finishing in the top four this season might be beyond Arsenal once again.

Emery is a proven winner at Europa League level, winning the competition no fewer than three times during his spell as Sevilla manager. This will be encouraging to Arsenal, who would regain entry to the Champions League should Emery win the competition for a fourth time in his career.

But the Europa League has to be about more than just qualifying for the Champions League for Arsenal. This is a team that has lost its winning mentality. This is a club that has now gone 14 years without winning a major honour. They might have won a few FA Cups in that time, but the Gunners find themselves cut adrift from the top of the sport both in terms of results and spirit.

This is where Emery must use the Europa League to foster a new mentality for a club that has lost its way in recent years. Look at the way Jose Mourinho used the competition two seasons ago to harden the minds of his players. Sure, qualifying for the Champions League might have been the carrot Manchester United chasing, but winning the Europa League was seen as part of a larger project.

Arsenal start their Europa League group stage campaign against Vorskla of Ukraine on Thursday. For a game of this type, against an opponent of this calibre, the Emirates Stadium will most likely be subdued. There will be a number of empty seats. But Emery can’t allow this to dull the approach of his players.

This is a chance for the Gunners to build some momentum and make some progress on untangling the mediocrity of the last 10 years. Many focus on things like personnel, signings and tactics when looking at how Arsenal have fallen away from the top level of late. But it has as much to do with the culture around the club. Emery must use the Europa League to address that. That’s where the real benefit of winning the competition would be.

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