Winless in their last four going into Saturday’s clash against Sampdoria, Lazio needed to rebound at home. After a dubious stoppage time penalty shot from Ciro Immobile put the hosts ahead late, it seemed like it would finally be their day. Yet, in the 99th minute, a headed-on long ball found its path to an onrushing Riccardo Saponara who expertly lobbed Strakosha with a deft touch, stripping the biancocelesti of the three points. The draw was Lazio’s fourth consecutive and sees the side trailing an injury-riddled Milan by a point for the fourth and final Champions League spot.
Lazio’s struggles haven’t gone unnoticed in the peninsula leading Simone Inzaghi to the hot-seat. With Champions League football as the objective, the Italian tactician is facing pressure for the first time since taking over in the nation’s capital. Throughout this poor stretch, the biancocelesti have largely been wasteful in front of goal, averaging a mere goal a game. Outside of their talisman Immobile, no player on the team has more than three Serie A goals, leading many to believe they’re a one-man show in the final third. Despite their struggles, Lotito has assured the fans Inzaghi is here to stay.
“The coach will be here for the next few years. We’ve put a lot of things in place to grow the club and it can happen that some games don’t go in the right direction, but that doesn’t mean catastrophes or broken relationships,” said the Lazio president.
When it goes wrong it’s easy to scapegoat the manager but both Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto have been shadows of their former selves and have been wholly ineffective in the final phase, whereas last season they were key contributors. While the Serbian’s price-tag was quoted near the 100 million mark just this summer, Lazio president Claudio Lotito will be lucky to recoup even half of that if he keeps performing like this. Luis Alberto, on the other hand, has failed to follow up his debut season in Serie A and has suffered from the same inconsistency problems that plagued him earlier in his career.
Andrea Consigli: Sassuolo are not in their best period, but they have tightened up in the back and this week they will host a Fiorentina team that has managed to put it on goal just four times on the road, which is the worst clip in the League.
Joao Cancelo: he will try to stick it to the team that did not pick up the option to buy him this summer and the fact that Alex Sandro is unlikely to play will give him more opportunities on offence. Juventus have kept three clean sheets in a row.
Fiorentina-Juventus: the Viola are having a weird season. They started off decently, showing well especially at home, where they are still undefeated and have a sound defense, but they have struggled to score recently. They have not netted more than one since late September and they have drawn in their last five matches, against Cagliari, Torino, Roma, Frosinone and Bologna. On the other hand, the Old Lady is cruising with 12 wins in the year, four in a row after the tumble against Genoa, but it will be tested before the break. Fiorentina’s offensive problems stem primarily from Giovanni Simeone and Marko Pjaca’s poor form, as they have combined for just three goals so far. Federico Chiesa is always doing stuff, but he has not bagged many as well. Continue reading →
The last round was a little meager in terms of scoring because few teams that were shut out. Here are the best performers.
Stefano Sorrentino (7 points): defenses bounced back after struggling in the match days prior to the break and nine teams managed to keep a clean sheet. None was more impressive than Chievo’s one at San Paolo, where their goalie made eight saves, including a pair of key and beautiful ones. Lukasz Skorupski and Alessio Cragno’s performances to stymie Fiorentina was also noteworthy.
William Troost-Ekong (5 points): a myriad of defenders got five points because their sides did not concede. The Udinese centre-back played a major role in stifling Roma on Saturday, blanketing first Patrik Schick and then Edin Dzeko. Continue reading →
Standings implication: Juventus had an easy time against SPAL and Inter got back on track by spanking Frosinone,so they both gained ground on Napoli, which were astonishingly held to a tie at home against the lowly Chievo. Lazio equalized at the buzzer in the meeting with Milan. Roma against sputtered, this time in Udine. Genoa and Sampdoria shared the spoils in the Derby della Lanterna. Parma got a quality win over Sassuolo. Fiorentina did not found the deciding goal in Bologna and had to settle for a nil-nil draw. Empoli mounted a furious comeback to best Atalanta. Continue reading →
The next round could be a little one-sided for the top clubs, but surprises are always around the corner in Serie A and there still a couple of juicy games on deck.
Juventus-SPAL: the Bianconeri prevailed in the always tense match-up with Milan, surviving a penalty but appearing pretty dominant overall. They have won in 11 of the first 12 games, setting a new Serie A-point record to start the season. SPAL looked a little better against Cagliari, but squandered a two-zip lead and had to settle for a tie. They had lost in six of the previous seven fixtures. Mario Mandzukicreturned to the starting XI with an immediate goal, then Cristiano Ronaldo bagged another one. Continue reading →
The next slate before another international break is pretty juicy.
Genoa-Napoli: the Griffon have not won in four games and the effects of the coaching change have not been palpable, since they continue to concede a lot. They lost twice in San Siro last week and the schedule does not do them any favor. The Partenopei easily romped Empoli last week and have won three out of their last four games, looking splendid at times. Krzysztof Piatek has not scored for four games in a row, which is unlikely to be a coincidence, and their last goals under Milan Juric have been pretty random, by Cristian Romero on a free kick, by Romulo on a penalty and by Daniel Bessa on a defensive mishap. Continue reading →
The next Serie A round features few titillating match-ups.
Empoli-Juventus: the Azzurri’s talented offence showed up in Frosinone, but this time they were held back by their back-line. They have won just once so far, in the season opener, and lost five times. The Old Lady dropped point for the first time against Genoa, but then bounced back in Champions League. The Bianconeri are pretty short-handed due to injuries, this could be the right spot for Federico Bernardeschior Douglas Costa because they have not gotten many minutes in the last two fixtures. Continue reading →
Another pretty interesting round is in the books: let’s take a look at the best performers.
Orestis Karnezis (7 points): only four clean sheets in the weekend. The Greek goalkeeper filled in for David Ospina and answered the bell with a pair of key saves against his former team.
Kevin Bonifazi(9 points): the youngster finally completed his comeback. He impressed two seasons ago at SPAL in Serie B, but then played very little at Torino last year due to injuries. He is back with Estensi now and buried a header against Roma, on top on defending diligently in a tough match-up. Continue reading →
Standings implications: Juventus dropped points for the first time this season and Napoli promptly took advantage of it, getting closer in the table. Inter prevailed thanks to a late goal in the Derby. Lazio were clinical against a tough opponent like Parma. Roma had a shocking showing against SPAL. Fiorentina’s winning streak was halted by Cagliari. Torino frittered away a two-nothing lead in Bologna, slowing down after two victories. Atalanta came back to winning ways in impressive fashion, romping Chievo on the road. Frosinone and Empoli shared the spoil in an early but still significant relegation zone clash.
Confirmations: Cristiano Ronaldo bagged another goal and Dries Mertens is picking up some steam Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa delivered late for Lazio. Continue reading →