Dangers, banana skins and must-wins: Plotting Lazio’s route to an improbable Scudetto

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Lazio’s stunning win over Inter last weekend made it difficult for even the most hardened cynic to deny their involvement in this year’s Serie A title race.

The come-from-behind victory demonstrated the infectious belief and confidence of Simone Inzaghi’s side yet again, not to mention their quality, as Sergej Milinkovic-Savic impressed and Ciro Immobile bagged his 26th goal of the season.

With 24 rounds of the Serie A season played, Lazio are one point behind Juventus in second, and two points ahead of Inter.

Although Inzaghi and his players continue to trot out the cliched “one game at a time” line on a regular basis, the temptation of looking ahead has proven too much for others to resist. Continue reading

Inter are the last team to beat Lazio in Serie A – but they face a different beast on Sunday

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Regret was the overwhelming emotion the last time Lazio faced Inter.

Joaquin Correa was guilty of squandering a series of good chances during an excellent performance, but the game was decided by Danilo D’Ambrosio out-jumping Jony for the decisive goal in a 1-0 victory for the Nerazzurri.

Not even the most  mindlessly optimistic Lazio fan would’ve guessed back then, on 25 September 2019, that the Biancocelesti wouldn’t have lost another league game by the time they faced Antonio Conte’s side again.

Last Sunday’s 1-0 win over Parma set a new club record of 18 games unbeaten in Serie A , on a day that the gap between the top three clubs was squeezed to just one point. Continue reading

Lazio continue to be a threat to Juventus with a 5 star performance

Can any club in Italy stop Juventus from winning their 8th title in a row? The nearest challenger seemed to be coming from Inter Milan who have not picked up a title since 2010, but in the background there has been a constant threat and that is from Lazio, who have gone two decades without the league.

Lazio have traditionally been there and thereabouts in season past, but this one the club from Rome have really stepped up, showing the type of consistency that a newer generation has rarely seen.

At the weekend Lazio beat SPAL 5-1 to move to within 2 points of Inter in 2nd and 5 points of Juventus. It was the clubs 15th win of the season. Next weekend they will play Verona at home and Inter will have to play in the Milan derby where points can easily be dropped and there is a chance that Lazio could move into 2nd.

Ciro Immobile has been firing in the goals for Lazio and has simply been brilliant this season, he already has 25 goals and has made 6 assists. So Immobile has been involved in 31 of Lazio’s goals from a total of 52 that’s well over 50% of their league goals this season. Immobile is also on course to break the all time Serie A goal scoring record for a season. Currently it is held by Gonzalo Higuain who broke the record in 2016 when he notched 36 goals in. He will need 12 more goals from 17 games to do it.

Simone Inzaghi is really building up his coaching career and has been a Lazio man since retiring from the game. He played for Lazio for 11 years and has been in the coaching set up of the club since 2010. This season is Inzaghi’s 4th in charge. He has won 3 trophies with the club, all domestic ones and this could be a major season for the club who at worst look like qualifying for the Champions League, but Inzaghi will have the league in his thoughts.

Whilst we can wax lyrical about Immobile’s goals football has never been a one man team and much praise should also go to Luis Alberto. The midfield maestro has scored 3 goals but also has assisted in another 11 goals making him one of the most valuable players in the squad. A defence led by Luiz Felipe has ensured 6 clean sheets this season and that means that Lazio have the 2nd best defensive record in Serie A. As far as goalscoring goes they have 52 and only Atalanta have more than them, skewered slightly by their freakish 7-0 win over Torino last week.

How far Lazio can go is up to them of course. Football can be fine margins because they have lost just 2 games, that’s the same as leaders Juventus and yet there is still a 5 point gap. If Lazio are to surprise everyone with a league win they can’t just rely on Juventus having a few bad games, they will most probably have to face them and beat them too. By the end of this month things should be clearer because 5 points is a gap, just a few more and it would be hard to see Lazio close that.

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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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Ending Napoli curse could be watershed moment in Lazio’s Champions League chase

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It’s all too easy to get lost in football statistics nowadays.

For followers of Lazio, this has been truer than ever of late. Every match, every win, every goal, seems to set a new historic landmark or shatter some long-standing record.

Among the avalanche of numbers and information that has tumbled from the slipstream of the Roman club’s nine-match winning run in Serie A was an important moment for Simone Inzaghi.

The Lazio coach had never beaten his Juventus counterpart Maurizio Sarri until December’s thrilling 3-1 victory at the Stadio Olimpico, only to then go and repeat the feat just two weeks later to win the Supercoppa Italiana in Riyadh.

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Lazio won’t win the Scudetto – but that doesn’t mean their herculean efforts don’t deserve celebration

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Lazio’s win over Juventus on Saturday was a statement.

Coming from behind to become the first team to beat Maurizio Sarri’s side this season certainly peaked the attention of any dozy onlookers who hadn’t noticed the momentum building on the blue side of Rome.

The result spoke volumes about the progress this team is making. And it spoke loudly.

It said that Simone Inzaghi’s side are no flat-track bullies, that this is a team capable of beating anyone on their day.

It said that the days of flopping on the big occasion, of failing to respond to adversity, of choking at crucial moments, are behind them. Continue reading

Zlatan Ibrahimovic being linked to Liverpool tells you how great a player he is

At 38 Zlatan Ibrahimovic should be looking back at his career and hanging his boots up. He has had a fantastic time in  football won multiple trophies and scored tons of great goals. He is Sweden’s best ever player and has earned a fortune in the game, and yet he wants another challenge.

Zlatan as he is commonly known by has left LA Galaxy after 2 seasons where he didn’t win a trophy but was involved in some memorable games, so good that LA fans took him to their hearts. He also scored plenty of goals, 53 in all competitions for the Galaxy in just 58 games, and he ended his time this season with 30 goals from 29 games. Now whilst might say that the MLS is not a top league, to do what he is doing at 38 is still quite remarkable and one is reminded of another great sport athlete in Roger Federer whose body refuses to give up.

Even at this age when Ibrahimovic  announced he was leaving the Galaxy a whole host of elite teams from Europe threw their name in the hat. He has been linked with a return back to PSG and AC Milan. In the Premier League his former club Manchester United have shown some interest and then there is Liverpool in first place and looking for their first title since 1990. Ibrahimovic has an incredible record of going to different clubs and winning league titles and for that Liverpool could suit him.

Possibly though the front runners are AC Milan. Ibrahimovic has a special relationship not just with the club but also in Italy where he has also played for Juventus and Inter Milan. The truth is at Milan Ibrahimovic would get more game time and could well be drafted into the first team. One would feel that at a club like Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp isn’t going to upset the apple cart and chop and change his forward line to accommodate the Swedish star. Instead Zlatan would be used as a super sub and in cup games, is that what he would want? Again his qualities on the pitch over the years have earned him that choice.

What will be fascinating as Ibrahimovic returns to Europe is can he still get goals at a higher level? He has scored 30 in his final season in the MLS and it would be interesting to see if he can keep some sort of consistency. The biggest factor being is that his professionalism and attitude is paving the way for strikers to continue on to their very late 30′s and maybe even 40′s. Now that is football evolution.

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Can Inter Milan upset Juventus and win their first Serie A title in 10 years?

No Inter Milan fan even in their worst nightmares could have predicted the fall of the club after Jose Mourinho upped his sticks and left the club in the summer of 2010 for Real Madrid. Now they are dreaming again almost a decade later.

Back in 2010 Inter under Mourinho’s infamous dogs of war and arguably his most successful period as a football coach not only won the league title but also completed for the first time in Italian football history the triple. That is the league title (Scudetto), the Italian cup and the creme of them all the Champions League. Indeed it was Inter’s first triumph in Europe since 1965. It all felt like a dream, but it was reality. Not only were Inter the champions of Italy but the champions of Europe.

Inter had finally stepped out of AC Milan and Juventus’ shadow as a club to be reckoned with and then Mourinho left and rather quickly Inter’s fortunes disappeared. It was as if by reaching the top of the mountain the only way was down. To add salt into the wounds Milan their eternal nemesis would win the league the following the year.

Since then countless coaches have come and gone and whilst Inter have always been there and thereabouts they have never looked like recapturing that glory at least domestically until this season. It has been a decade dominated by Juventus and their 8 in a row titles.

This season Inter have started superbly, losing just one game so far in Serie A inevitably to Juventus and the grand old lady remain their biggest obstacle to picking up their first title in what will be 10 years. But can Inter do it?

With the international break upon us Inter are just one point behind Juventus with 31 and that has been achieved out of a maximum points total of 36. In short in most seasons Inter would be in 1st place with a healthy lead. But there looms always the threat of Juventus.

Inter have a 7 point lead over 3rd place Lazio which is massive and Inter should be able to finish at least 2nd this season. But only winning the league will do and this team does have the tools to do it. Headed by Romelu Lukaku the Belgian has found a new lease of life after going a little stale at his former club Manchester United and he has already scored 9 goals this season. Even the great Cristiano Ronaldo only has 5 so far for Juve.

But Inter also have quality in their ranks such as Stefano Sensi who has already scored 3 goals from midfield and assisted in another two. In Antonio Conte Inter have a very successful coach the one who masterminded so many Juventus league titles, everything looks in place.

Can Inter go that extra mile and stop another Juventus win? This title looks like it will go down to the wire which, if anything, will be great for Italian football rather than the normal procession.

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Lazio need Joaquin Correa to sharpen his blunt edges – and fast

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As he watched his penalty cannon off the crossbar, Joaquin Correa’s head sank into his hands.

He wanted this – no, he needed this – to go in.

Correa desperately wanted to dedicate a goal to his grandmother, who passed away recently.

He wanted to be the man to secure a hard-fought win for Lazio against Bologna, after seeing his side come back from behind twice.

But most of all, he needed the goal to help change the narrative that has been building this season: that the Argentine lacks a clinical edge.

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Simone Inzaghi made mistakes against Inter – but benching Ciro Immobile wasn’t one of them

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As the news filtered through a few hours before kick-off, no one could quite believe it: Ciro Immobile would start on the bench for Lazio against Inter. 

Immobile has started the new season at his lethal best, scoring four goals in his first four games ahead of the trip to San Siro, and another for Italy on international duty.

When the official line-up came out to confirm that Felipe Caicedo would partner Joaquin Correa in attack, there was a general assumption that it must have something to do with Immobile’s strop during Sunday’s win over Parma.

In that game, the striker scored the opening goal but threw a tantrum on his way back to the bench when his number came up in the second half. Continue reading