Standings implications: Juventus garnered the final points they needed for the title against Fiorentina. Torino were the only team to succeed in the European races, since Roma shared the spoils with Inter, Milan were pipped at post in Parma and Lazio were stunned by Chievo. Atalanta will play on Monday in Naples. Empoli find themselves in a hole after being torpedoed by SPAL at home and the Estensi have now comfortable lead over the last three places. Udinese tied with Sassuolo, taking a little step forward since they are four points above the Azzurri, but were leapfrogged by Bologna, whic thumped Sampdoria. Cagliari arrived at the 40-point mark with their W over Frosinone, whose relegation is pretty much a done deal. Genoa keep spiraling, but they still have a little cushion before being in serious troubles. Continue reading
Juventus-Milan: the Bianconeri are coming off a convincing outing in Cagliari, where they notched their second shutout win in a row and in general their seventh victory in the last eight fixtures. On the other hand, the Rossoneri failed to take home the full loot for three matches in a row as they lost to Inter and Sampdoria and then tied with Udinese. The Old Lady is likely to have back both Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala for this game, while Cristiano Ronaldo is slated to sit one more out. Some players could be spared in the Ajax game, in any case Moise Kean and Federico Bernardeschi are in terrific form and have lead them scoring-wise. Continue reading
For even a casual observer of Lazio, it’s been obvious that this season has struggled to live up to the high standards set in 2017/18.
Last term, Simone Inzaghi’s entertainers finished as Serie A’s top-scoring side, raced to the Europa League quarter-finals and were only denied a Champions League place due to the cruel rule of head-to-head record trumping goal difference in the final standings.
Now, with 41 goals in 27 matches, Lazio have the ninth best attack in the league, albeit with a game in hand that could see them draw level with Inter, Milan and Fiorentina above them on 43 goals. Continue reading
Despite failing to earn a shutout win due to a schoolboy error, Lazio had by far the most dominating performance in the round and vanquished Parma with a magnificent first half.
They came into the game looking to redeem themselves after a slightly disappointing tie in Florence, where they could have easily won the game with more precision and more intensity, especially in the second half, while they squashed Roma in the Derby two weeks ago. Continue reading
Salvatore Sirigu: his record run of clean sheets came to end in Frosinone, but he could be a good pick again as Torino have not conceded in five straight at home and they will tangle with Bologna, which are not particularly prolific and will be without their leading scorer Federico Santander.
Kalidou Koulibaly: Napoli are tied for the best statistical home defense in the League, while Udinese have the third worst road attack and had not found the target in five consecutive games before the previous in Turin. The Senegalese powerhouse will also get to rest midweek as he is suspended in Europa League. Continue reading
SPAL-Roma: the Estensi are pretty much starving for points as they collected just one in their last five games, against Sassuolo, and were beaten by Atalanta, Fiorentina, Sampdoria and Inter, further signaling their struggles against good competition. Their lead over the danger zone has been cut to just two points. The Giallorossi partially course corrected after a rough week with a narrow win over Empoli, where they did not look imposing and were lucky in the end, but also had to endure a host of absences. One of the main issues for the Biancazzurri has been the fact that they have not identified reliable offensive contributors other than Andrea Petagna, Jasmin Kurtic and Manuel Lazzari and the house of cards crumbled once the wing back was sidelined by an injury. Continue reading
Less than a year has passed since it seemed that all was lost for Felipe Caicedo at Lazio.
The Ecuadorian, brought in ahead of last season to provide an alternative to Ciro Immobile in Lazio’s attack, had shown few glimpses of possessing the quality needed to take the club back into the Champions League during regular cameos from the bench and occasional starts in his debut season.
However, he was handed a glorious chance to prove his critics wrong when the prolific Immobile picked up an injury with just a handful of games remaining of the 2017/18 campaign and a top four spot all-but secured.
Caicedo started, and scored, against Atalanta with three games to go but Simone Inzaghi’s side could only muster a draw.
A chance to make amends presented itself immediately. Lazio travelled to relegation-battling Crotone for the penultimate game of the season knowing that a win would assure them of Champions League football.
Caicedo again started and, with the score level at 1-1, he burst through the home side’s defence to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper. A little composure would’ve been enough to give Lazio the lead, but the former Espanyol striker hit a tame finish straight into the keeper’s grateful arms.
Later, he had a free header from a set piece, but nodded it off the crossbar. Lazio went on to draw 2-2, and completed their late-season collapse with defeat to Inter on the final day that saw them painfully drop out of the top four on head-to-head record.
It would be reductive to suggest that Caicedo single-handedly lost Lazio a Champions League spot, but his squandered chances that day in Calabria left the fans in no doubt that he was at best a substandard back-up option, at worst a liability who needed to be sold immediately.
It is incredible, therefore, to fast forward to the striker’s heroics in Saturday’s Rome derby, when he scored the opener in an extraordinary 3-0 win over Roma, a result that equalled the club’s best-ever result in the fixture and sparked a wave of celebration and optimism for laziali that is still going strong.
The derby holds momentous importance in the calendar of both capital clubs. This has been particularly clear over the last few days.
A week ago, Lazio were on the brink of a crisis as defeat in the derby would’ve made Champions League qualification all-but impossible. Instead, on Thursday the club opened its doors to 5000 fans for a midweek training session, celebrating a result that has united supporters, players and staff in their conviction that a top four spot, and even a Coppa Italia triumph, can be achieved in the weeks and months to come.
On the other side of town, Roma have gone from the thick of the top four race with one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals to being three points adrift of fourth and out of Europe, having sacked their coach Eusebio di Francesco and sporting director Monchi as a result.
For Caicedo, his performance in the derby has transformed him from a popular player to one of the most celebrated members of the squad. The 30-year-old’s composed finish, where he rounded Robin Olsen and stroked the ball into the net, was a world away from his flustered display in Crotone last May.
The Ecuadorian’s strike rate has not improved dramatically this season. His goal in the derby was his fourth of the season in Serie A, while he found the net once in the Europa League. However, his determination, humility and attitude have brought the fans onto his side.
He will always give everything he’s got and this attribute has been applauded by the supporters. He will accept a place on the bench or a mid-game substitution without drama, something that can’t be said for the likes of Luis Alberto, Patric or even captain Senad Lulic.
However, something the Ecuadorian has added to his arsenal this season is tactical flexibility. He is not a vice-Immobile. That hasn’t changed. But his physicality and link-up play offer Inzaghi something he otherwise doesn’t possess among his forwards.
Caicedo has played alongside Immobile on several occasions this season, as well as frequently leading the line with Joaquin Correa, as he did last Saturday. His newfound ability to play in a deeper role, on the shoulder of the main striker, has seen him gain more game time this season; he has already accumulated a total of 1,303 minutes on the pitch this season compared to 1,270 altogether last term.
While he will never be a prolific finisher, Caicedo’s form in front of goal kept Lazio’s engine running in a difficult period plagued by injuries and poor form recently. In contrast to his misses losing the club points last season, the striker single-handedly won Lazio six points as he scored winners in 1-0 victories over Frosinone and Empoli last month.
He has now scored three goals in his last four Serie A appearances, the same number he registered all of last season, and suddenly Inzaghi is having to consider for the first time in his tenure whether to start an in-form Caicedo or an out-of-form Immobile.
Derby goals help to make players legends on the blue side of Rome, with Immobile scoring the second to cement that status in their eyes and former youth team captain Danilo Cataldi adding a third in what he described as “the greatest moment of my career”.
Caicedo’s fan favourite status then took an even bigger boost when he responded to Roma’s Champions League elimination on Wednesday night with a laughing emoji – a sure-fire way to curry favour with the fans.
How long the golden period will last remains a mystery, but Caicedo has started adding goals to his game at the best possible moment for Lazio, who have the wind in their sails as they look to close the gap to the Milan clubs.
A trip to Fiorentina comes next for the Aquile and if the ‘Panther’ can continue his run against a team lurking just five points behind Inzaghi’s side, the memory of that day in Crotone will become foggier and foggier in the memories of the fans.
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An easy choice in this case as far as the team of the round goes since Lazio romped Roma in the much-awaited Derby. The Biancocelesti came into the game looking to avenge their tough loss in the final minutes against Genoa in their last Serie A game two weeks ago, while they could not bend Milan’s defence in Coppa Italia on Tuesday. They did not play last week against Udinese due to a scheduling conflict at the Olimpico Stadium.
Simone Inzaghi could not field Ciro Immobile and Marco Parolo from the get-go due to last minute ailments, but was otherwise able to marshal all his other stars, including Luis Alberto. Continue reading
Standings implications: Juventus most likely inflicted the final blow to the title race with a 1-2 win over Napoli in a crazy game. Milan leapfrogged Inter in the third spot as they eked out a win against Sassuolo, while the Nerazzurri were blitzed by Cagliari back on Friday. Roma stayed behind as they got battered by Lazio, which re-entered the fray for the fourth spot, as they have six fewer points than the Beneamata, but have to recover one game. Atalanta and Torino remain in hot pursuit of an Europa League berth with their convincing victories over Fiorentina and Chievo. Massive points for the Sardinians and for Udinese in the relegation zone: the Friulani moved seven points clear of Bologna after besting them on Sunday afternoon. Frosinone and Empoli treaded waters down there with their gritty ties against Genoa and Parma. Continue reading
Cagliari-Inter: the Sardinians are coming off a 0-1 loss to Sampdoria, where they were offensively challenged, and have prevailed just once in the past seven games, where they have been beaten five times. Inter had a crazy one with Fiorentina last week, where they were pipped at the post due to a questionable penalty. They had defeated Parma and the Blucerchiati in the two previous fixtures and need point to stave off Milan and Roma’s comeback. The Rossoblù have found the net in just one of their last five games and only with one player, Leonardo Pavoletti. Continue reading