Lazio’s investment in two of Europe’s top crossers solves a major headache for Simone Inzaghi

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It’s been quite the summer of spending in Serie A, with many of the league’s big guns splashing out large sums to overhaul their squads ahead of the 2019/20 season.

That has never been Lazio’s style during Claudio Lotito’s presidency and although a reasonable amount of money has been invested in the market this summer, it has been put towards just three players: Denis Vavro, Jony and Manuel Lazzari.

The capital club’s dealings have been an example of intelligently conducted business in a market that so often leans more towards emotion and desperation than prudence and planning. Continue reading

Five points to take away from a season of triumph and torment at Lazio

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Lazio’s campaign of highs and lows concluded with the latter on Sunday when Simone Inzaghi’s side lost 3-1 at Torino to finish the Serie A campaign in eighth place.

It was the Roman club’s worst league finish in three years and topped off a season of startling inconsistency.

The joy of a 3-0 win over Roma and an impressive 1-0 victory away to Inter was in stark contrast to lifeless performances that resulted in damaging defeats to the likes of Genoa, SPAL and above all the unforgivable 2-1 loss at home to already-relegated Chievo over Easter weekend.

The Coppa Italia triumph gave the campaign a huge lift, raising spirits and securing Europa League qualification for next season. Continue reading

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

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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

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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

Inzaghi ponders whether to stick or twist as Lazio reserves impress

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Ferocious Champions League races have become something of a theme across Europe this season with teams from England, Germany and Spain taking the top four fight to the final few weeks.

Nowhere is the battle as competitive as in Italy, though, where four points separate five teams between fourth and eighth place with four rounds of action remaining.

For Lazio, the jig appeared to be up when they fell to a harrowing 2-1 defeat at home to relegated Chievo over Easter weekend. Continue reading

Maddening yet magical Joaquin Correa starting to shine at Lazio

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After another week of maddening inconsistency for Lazio, it seemed only fitting that Joaquin Correa was the man to offer a ray of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. 

The darkness descended on Easter Saturday with a 2-1 defeat at home to a relegated Chievo team who had previously won just once all season, causing seemingly irreparable damage to the capital club’s Champions League aspirations.

The abhorrent scenes of some Lazio supporters brandishing fascist banners in Milan before a larger number aimed racist abuse at AC Milan midfielders Tiemoue Bakayoko and Franck Kessie at San Siro during Wednesday night’s Coppa Italia semi-final second leg only increased the feelings of anger and frustration among the vast majority of the club’s support. Continue reading

From rejecting Italy to attracting Tottenham, Lazio’s Luiz Felipe is a player on the rise

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A win for Lazio over Udinese in their rearranged Serie A match this week has kept Simone Inzaghi’s side hanging on by their fingernails in the agonisingly tight race for Champions League qualification.

There is much still to play for this season, with a Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against AC Milan approaching next week (the first leg finished 0-0) after a must-win league meeting with relegated Chievo on Saturday.

Lazio’s summer transfer market activity is likely to be dictated largely by how the next month or so plays out; Champions League football would raise expectations and possibilities, no European football at all would have the opposite effect.

That hasn’t stopped speculation from swirling, though, and this week the Daily Mail reported that Tottenham Hotspur have taken an interest in Biancocelesti defender Luiz Felipe.

Vague reports of ‘interest’ from Premier League clubs in Lazio players are nothing new, but it did at least serve to highlight what an eventful season this has been for the young Brazilian who, while yet to emerge as an undisputed first choice or develop into one of Serie A’s best young defenders, has shown plenty of signs that he is capable of doing both.

Born in Colina, near Sao Paulo, on 22 March 1997, Felipe was whisked over to Italy in 2016 after being spotted playing for Brazilian Serie D side Ituano in his home country.

He had barely unpacked his bags before being diverted south to Salernitana, where he spent the 2016/17 season on loan but struggled to break into the team or impress when handed opportunities.

However, Felipe soon benefitted from Inzaghi’s faith in youth as the former Lazio youth team coach brought him into the Aquile first team squad last season, where he made 31 appearances in his first experience of top-flight and Europa League football.

The youngster would’ve been forgiven for looking a bit daunted, or even out of his depth, at being thrust into this elite echelon of football with just seven disappointing games in Serie B on his CV. However, he soon established a reputation as a technically gifted, intelligent defender with great potential.

Felipe appears most comfortable in the centre of Inzaghi’s back three, where he deputised for Stefan De Vrij on occasion last season before doing the same at times for Francesco Acerbi this term – including during Wednesday’s win over Udinese, when Acerbi was shifted out to the left.

The immovable status of De Vrij and subsequently Acerbi meant that Felipe’s chances more regularly came on the right of the three-man defence, the position that has seen the most chopping and changing of all in Inzaghi’s Lazio; Wallace, Bastos, Martin Caceres, Felipe and Patric have all taken turns at being considered first choice in the role.

Felipe himself insisted after the Udinese match that he doesn’t have a preferred position. “I just like playing,” he said. “If it’s in the centre, on the right or left it matters little. There’s no problem, I respect the decision of the coach.”

A quick, agile and smart player, Felipe’s style of defending has had some of the more excitable fans describing him as in the Alessandro Nesta mould. While he still has lightyears to go before being talked of in the same bracket as one of Lazio’s greatest ever defenders, you can understand where the comparison comes from.

Felipe is blessed with instinctive timing and judgement. He is a graceful defender, who has a knack for anticipating the right moment to go off his feet, step forward to intercept a pass or throw himself into a block. He is not a physically dominant bully of a defender by any stretch of the imagination, but looks every inch the modern-day centre-back; a player comfortable with the ball at his feet but who understands the art of defending.

At the start of the season, after his regular involvement last term, hopes were high that Felipe would cement his place in Inzaghi’s team. Injury niggles have interrupted his progress, with the Brazilian twice facing spells on the sidelines, but he has done enough to find himself at the centre of a national team debate.

Luigi Di Biagio called the defender up to the Italy Under-21 squad during the last international break in March, but Felipe soon left the training retreat after reflecting on his situation and deciding he would prefer to represent Brazil. You can’t fault his ambition.

“It was a difficult choice because Italy is also a great national team, but football is about the heart and my desire is to play for the Selecao,” he said.

“I didn’t accept because I want to continue to follow the dream I’ve had since I was a child, to wear the green and gold shirt. I will continue to work to improve every day, to make this desire a reality.”

The Brazilian Olympic team appears to be a more realistic prospect for Felipe at this stage, with the Tokyo Olympics coming up next year, but everything depends on whether the youngster can nail down a regular place in Inzaghi’s team and finally make the right centre-back spot his own.

There will certainly be defensive changes at the club this summer, regardless of their final position in the table. Dusan Basta is leaving at the end of his contract, Jordan Lukaku looks destined to follow, while Wallace is widely reported to be heading out and the likes of Bastos or Patric could realistically depart if a suitable offer arrives.

As for Felipe, he is seen as one of the great young hopes of this Lazio side and is in a good place to achieve his goal of representing his country, repaying the faith shown in him by Inzaghi in the process.

He may not be Nesta, but the Brazilian possesses the tools to make real waves in a Lazio shirt. It’s now up to him to prove that his hopes of pulling on a green and gold shirt aren’t farfetched.

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Assessing the run-in: Why Milan v Lazio is a true Champions League shoot-out

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Lazio’s last trip to San Siro raised their hopes of Champions League qualification to a new high.

Less than a fortnight ago, a superb 1-0 win over Inter made Simone Inzaghi’s side frontrunners to burst into the top four, but things change quickly in football.

The damaging week which followed, where they picked up just one point from games against SPAL and Sassuolo, means the Aquile return to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Saturday needing another big win, this time against AC Milan, to revive their flagging form.

Despite the recent disappointments, the Biancocelesti remain firmly in the mix, with just three points separating them from the Rossoneri in fourth and a game in hand against Udinese to come next week. Continue reading

Ciro Immobile must rediscover swagger to launch Lazio’s Champions League charge

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One step forward, two steps back. That would be a simple way of reviewing the last few days for Lazio, who secured a massive win away to Champions League rivals Inter on Sunday only to fall to an exasperating defeat at lowly SPAL three days later.

The race for the top four spots is far from over and Simone Inzaghi’s side can still count on having a game in hand to gain ground on their rivals, not to mention an easier run-in, but there was no mistaking what a momentous missed opportunity the game in Ferrara was.

You can’t escape the feeling that Lazio may look back on that performance with regret come the end of the season, but perhaps the most concerning lesson to take from the loss was that Ciro Immobile is still showing no sign of turning around his stuttering form. Continue reading