Lazio-Bologna: the only game between two teams that actually played last week. The Biancocelesti extended their superb run by grinding out a W versus Genoa, thanks to the usual Ciro Immobile goal and two unlikely heroes coming through, Adam Marusic, who has started over Manuel Lazzari in two matches in a row, and Danilo Cataldi. While Sergej Milinkovic-Savic scored against Inter, the bonuses for their other two fantasy stars, Luis Alberto and Joaquin Correa, have not been there in recent rounds, leaving Felipe Caicedo as the only serviceable option besides the capocannoniere. Jony has taken over for the injured Senad Lulic and, while he is a high-volume crosser, he has come up with just one assist so far. It could be another ripe day for their offense considering that the Felsinei have a soft defence. Continue reading
Lazio-Inter was the most anticipated match going into round 24: it was pretty tight but still had a decent amount of action, so it takes home the shout-out in combination with its potentially huge significance in the title race.
The Biancocelesti were handed their last loss in the first meeting between the two sides back in September and then proceeded to go on a still ongoing terrific run, although they had slowed down a bit lately with two draws in the past four contests. The Nerazzurri were instead coming off two Ws, the first versus Udinese and then a crazy one in the Derby. Continue reading
Atalanta-Roma: the Goddess continue to add to their offensive arsenal, as Duvan Zapata is returning two his usual pre-injury numbers (two goals and three assists in the last four games) and Ruslan Malinovskyi came through last week. The Ukrainian attacker seems to have surpassed Luis Muriel as first option off the bench. Josip Ilicic did not score against Fiorentina, but still had a great performance and he has been en fuego for a while. The one small negative is that, with their front-line now featuring two quality scorers, Alejandro Gomez is back at looking more to feed them rather than finishing on his own: as a matter of fact he set up two goals last week and has not hit the net since in six weeks. Timothy Castagne came back and he is a bigger offensive weapon than the more diligent Hans Hateboer, but they will likely continue to alternate, while Robin Gosens on the opposite flank is slowing down a bit after a gorgeous January. Mario Pasalic fumbled away a pair of sitters in Florence. Rafael Toloi (one goal and six assists) has been their most intriguing defender. Continue reading
The Derby della Madonnina delivered in terms of entertainment value and was a classic tale of two halves, as Milan dominated before the break, but then Inter turned the table and earned a potentially massive win as far as the title race is concerned.
The Nerazzurri were looking to get definitely back on track, as they had won last week versus Udinese, but had tied three times in a row before that. Milan instead, after a three-game winning streak, had equalized with Verona. Continue reading
Standings implications: Juventus took a very bad-looking tumble in Verona and the two chasers pounced, as Inter mounted an epic comeback in the Derby and Lazio eked it out against Parma. The Bianconeri and the Nerazzuri have the same amount of points and the Biancocelesti are just one behind. Atalanta found a way to defeat Fiorentina away, while Roma lost again, at the hands of Bologna, so the Goddess are back in sole possession of the fourth spot. The Scaligeri and the Felsinei both leapfrogged Cagliari in the race to sixth one. Three precious wins in the relegation zone, as Lecce torpedoed Napoli, Genoa nipped the Sardinian and Sampdoria sunk Torino, while Brescia were victims of a late goal versus Udinese and SPAL got dropped again by Sassuolo. There is now a little cushion between the bottom two teams and the rest of the pack.
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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Lazio-Sampdoria: despite a fairly muted performance, the Biancocelesti came out on top versus Napoli last week, for the second week in a row propelled by a late Ciro Immobile goal. The capocannoniere keeps producing and has already reached the 20-goal threshold. He has scored their last three goals. Joaquin Correa will be limited, so Felipe Caicedo might get another chance to start and he has posted three goals and two assists in limited action in the last five appearances. Luis Alberto will be looking to pad his assist numbers (12), while Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has reverted back to his less efficient self after a hot stretch. Senad Lulic will be suspended, so Jony is set to play on the left wing and he is a willing crosser. The Eagles have been airtight at home. Continue reading
Cagliari-Milan: the Rossoblù played their worst game of the season against Juventus and will be eager to bounce back here and snap out of a three-game losing streak. Their last two goals were scored by Joao Pedro and Giovanni Simeone and obviously the Brazilian forward, who has tallied 11 in the season, remains their most appealing player, while the ex-Fiorentina man is more inconsistent, but has his moments in the sun. Radja Nainggolan has not been done a lot in the past four games and that has caused a decline in their offensive efficiency. They lack reliable fantasy option behind those because Nahitan Nandez and Marko Rog are not involved in the offense on a regular basis and their yield there is spotty. Their fullbacks, Luca Pellegrini in particular, have picked up few assists. Continue reading
Brescia-Lazio: it did not take much, but the Rondinelle are playing way better after the return of Eugenio Corini and have rediscovered a pair of weapons that had not produced in the first handful of games, such as Ernesto Torregrossa and Nikolas Spalek. Torregrossa is a more natural fit next to Mario Balotelli and, while not overly prolific, he can hit the net from time to time. The Slovenian no.10 instead had struggled to find his footing in the top league, but he is getting there. His emergence, on top of injuries to other midfielders, pushes Romulo to a less offensive position, where he is not as appealing fantasy-wise. Dimitri Bisoli is also faromg better lately, while Balotelli has corrected his attitude and found the target twice in the past month and is obviously their featured guy up front. Stefano Sabelli is always very frisky for a right-back. Continue reading
Wojciech Szczesny: the Juventus back-line has not been stout in the last two matches, allowing multiple goals for the first time this season, but they might be able to rectify things in the Udinese clash, since the opponents are tied for the least goals scored in the season. The goalie instead has been superb so far.
Aleksandar Kolarov: he has not scored or assisted in five straight rounds, which is odd for him, and he could be due to bounce back in a plum match-up against SPAL. Since Gianluca Mancini is suspended and Chris Smalling is banged up, he is slated to be Roma’s most appealing defender versus a team that has found the target just once in away matches. Continue reading