What does the Serie A fixture chaos mean for Lazio?

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The worst, it seems, is over.

After a maddening week of indecision, bickering and downright incompetence from Italy’s football authorities, some answers have finally been delivered as to how Serie A will deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

The Italian government have issued a decree confirming that all sporting events in the country are to be played behind closed doors until 3 April.

Up until this point, Lazio’s superb season has been unaffected by the public health crisis.

But after a week of contradicting statements and last-minute U-turns, now is the time to answer some of the key questions surrounding the new reality in Italian football. Continue reading

Denis Vavro earns his chance to end difficult debut season at Lazio on a high

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It wasn’t the day anyone expected Denis Vavro to make his first Serie A start for Lazio; not least the man himself.

Last Sunday’s lunchtime kick-off away to Genoa always threatened to be a difficult task for the Biancoceleste given the improved form of the Rossoblu, who have a well-earned status as a bogey team for the capital club.

But the challenge facing Simone Inzaghi’s side appeared all the more daunting when the news arrived in the hour before kick-off that Francesco Acerbi had pulled out through injury in the warm-up, after originally being named in the starting XI. Continue reading

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 have turned defence from weakness to strength – so what has changed?

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Nobody saw it coming, but perhaps that’s why they should have.

The Rome Derby has a well-earned reputation for upsetting the odds and ignoring the form book, and the fixture provided more evidence of why last weekend.

Lazio went into the game on a club record 11-game winning run, while their injury-ravaged rivals had started the new year with three defeats in five games.

But the Giallorossi dominated from start to finish, bossing possession, creating chances and coming away from a 1-1 draw wondering how they had failed to claim three points.

Fingers were understandably pointed at the Roma attack for a lack of cutting edge, as they relied on an error from Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha to find the net at all, before Pau Lopez replied with an even worse howler of his own. Continue reading

Five big questions facing Lazio and Roma ahead of a momentous Rome Derby

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The biggest fixture on the Roman football calendar returns on Sunday, when Roma look to close the gap on their high-flying neighbours Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico.

But what are the major talking points?

1. How will Lazio cope with the favourites tag?

Derby matches are synonymous with clichés about the ‘form book going out the window’, but the Roman version has helped prove that adage to be true over the years.

You don’t have to look too far to find examples of the team in worse form winning the Derby della Capitale, but rarely has the gap between the two sides’ form been as pronounced as it is going into Sunday’s meeting. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

From scapegoat to super-sub: How Felipe Caicedo became an unlikely Lazio talisman

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In Italy, it’s called the ‘Zona Cesarini’. In Rome, it’s fast becoming known as the ‘Zona Caicedo’.

The expression refers to the dying moments of a game, and derives from former Juventus midfielder Renato Cesarini’s knack for scoring very late goals back in the 1930s.

Ninety years later, Lazio striker Felipe Caicedo is becoming comparably synonymous with a special ability to put the ball in the net when all seems lost.

The Ecuadorian has three goals in his last three Serie A games. That’s good form for a striker by any standards, but it becomes an exceptional return when you consider that the earliest he entered any of those matches was the 79th minute.

Continue reading

Ciro Immobile’s on fire: Putting the form of Europe’s hottest striker in context

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It’s not often that a striker’s form gets so good that it’s almost embarrassing.

But that was exactly how it felt on Sunday when Joaquin Correa was tripped inside the Udinese box to give Lazio their second penalty kick of the first half.

At that point, Lazio were cruising with a two-goal lead. Both goals had, of course, been scored by Ciro Immobile.

The second of those was from the penalty spot, which Immobile dispatched expertly – an underrated part of his game, and not the only one. Continue reading