Lazio adding impressive depth ahead of Champions League return

Lazio surprised the masses last season with an unlikely title push, but ultimately fell short when it mattered, sliding down to fourth place. In many ways, the Biancocelesti’s lack of depth hurt the side after the restart. Simone Inzaghi’s men played some of the best football in Italy when playing once a week, but will need to adapt quickly as their return to the Champions League approaches.

The capital-based club has wasted no time bolstering their ranks and addressing their needs. Vedat Muriqi has arrived from Fenerbahçe S.K and will offer some crucial depth up front. Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa start the season as Inzaghi’s undisputed starters but will benefit from sitting out some games. Felipe Caicedo impressed early on in the year but tailed off towards the tail end of the season while Bobby Adekanye is still young for a bigger role.

At 26 years old, Muriqi offers experienced depth and is a proven goalscorer. The Kosovo international netted 15 goals and 6 assists last season in Super Lig action, indicating he is deadly in front of goal. Beyond his impressive goalscoring repertoire, Muriqi has demonstrated he can play in a two-striker setup and could form a dangerous partnership with either Immobile or Correa. It may have taken Lazio some time to get this deal over the line, but Muriqi’s arrival is a big one.

Other than Muriqi, Lazio has also signed Mohamed Fares from the relegated SPAL. Last season, Jony started most of the Biancocelesti’s games from left wingback and faced no competition from Jordan Lukaku. Fares’s arrival creates competition for the starting role, all-while offering Inzaghi depth off the bench. Fares is an experienced Serie A player and comes at a relatively low price.

SPAL may have disappointed last season, but Fares was regularly a bright spot for the Ferrara-based club and was a constant menace down the left-hand side. As the new season approaches, expect Fares to start off the bench and slowly stake a claim for the starting spot. His signing is yet another one that may go under the radar but could prove to be one of the bargains of the summer.

Gonzalo Escalante has also been added from Eibar and has looked decent in the midfield in the early goings of preseason. A more pressing need for Inzaghi’s men, however, is at centreback. The Biancocelesti have previously been linked with Hellas Verona’s Marash Kumbulla and are reportedly monitoring Torino’s Armando Izzo. 

According to recent reports, Izzo does not fit into Marco Giampaolo’s plans next season, as the former Sampdoria tactician looks to transition I Granata to a back four. In this sense, Izzo would be an ideal signing for Inzaghi’s men and much like Fares, has plenty of Serie A experience in a similar system.

Kumbulla is another player who impressed in a back three this season but may be unrealistic given his price-tag. Inter has recently pulled out of the race for the defender, giving Lazio the opportunity to swoop in. As the new season approaches, Inzaghi will be eager to add another center-back to his side, with Izzo or Kumbulla both representing great options.

It would appear the Biancocelesti are gearing up to compete on all three fronts going into next season, adding impressive depth across the board. With the new season kicking off in just ten days, it remains to be seen if Lazio will add another centre-back, despite the recent links. Inzaghi’s men may not contend for the Scudetto this season, but if last season was anything to go by, underestimate them at your own risk. Lazio has bolstered their roster and will be raring to go upon their Champions League return.

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Breaking down Lazio’s Mercato Needs

Lazio will be making its highly anticipated return to the Champions League next season and will be eager to hit the ground running in Europe’s elite competition. Simone Inzaghi’s men surprised Italy this season, springing an unlikely title challenge, but ultimately fell short. In many ways, their lack of depth hurt them late and caused the Biancocelesti to drop unnecessary points. With Lazio competing on three fronts next year, Igli Tare and Claudio Lotito will use this summer to retool the side and offer Inzaghi more flexibility.

According to recent reports, Lazio are in the market for another striker. Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa formed a deadly duo in the final third this season, but Lazio lacked quality depth when either was out of the lineup. Felipe Caicedo finished the season with nine goals but left a lot to be desired at crucial moments while Bobby Adenkanye failed to break through Inzaghi’s starting eleven.

Lazio have since been linked with former Real Madrid striker Borja Mayoral. In recent times, however, Fenerbahce’s Vedat Muriqi has emerged as the favorite up front. The Kosovo international will reportedly join Lazio for 18 million euros and will give Inzaghi some much-needed depth.

Beyond Muriqi, Lazio are closing in on SPAL’s Mohamed Fares for the left wingback role. Jony struggled to make an impact when called upon while Senad Lulic is beginning to slow down out wide. As a result, reinforcements are needed to offer Lazio some width and pace in the wide areas. Jordan Lukaku never got going in Inzaghi’s system and could very well be on his way out this summer. Fares is already familiar with Serie A and was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for SPAL. At eight million euros, Fares could offer Lazio great value, similarly to Manuel Lazzari down the right-hand side.

While Fares and Muriqi offer depth and will largely be used in rotation, Lazio have set their sights on a huge free agent signing. Manchester City’s David Silva is reportedly heavily considering moving to the nation’s capital and joining forces with his compatriot Luis Alberto in the middle of the park. The duo will undoubtedly form one of the league’s most creative midfield units and will thrive supplying Immobile and Correa.

Silva may be approaching 35 years old, but the Spaniard could offer Lazio another season or two at the highest level. Lazio struggled to break sides down towards the tail end of the season and could benefit from Silva’s presence in their lineup. The former Valencia man, however, is currently weighing an offer from Qatar and will give Lazio his final answer shortly. In any case, Silva would be a major coup for Tare and would offer the side a wealth of experience going into the Champions League.

Fares, Muriqi, and Silva would represent a phenomenal summer for Lazio, but if Inzaghi’s men want to take the next step, they arguably need another centreback. Francesco Acerbi, Luis Felipe, and Stefan Radu formed an uncompromising trio at the back this season, but they could benefit from an injection of youth.

The Biancocelesti were previously linked to Hellas Verona’s Marash Kumbulla, but the defender is now Inter bound. In many ways, the Verona man is an ideal profile for Lazio and would have refreshed their rearguard. Beyond Kumbulla, Lazio could inquire about Juventus wantaway Daniele Rugani. The former Empoli man desperately needs a move away and could rekindle his best form away from Juve. In any case, another defender would help reduce Acerbi’s workload significantly and tighten up their back three ahead of Thomas Strakosha.

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Serie A Injury Report – Round 33

Atalanta: Robin Gosens was a late scratch against Juventus, but he has been called up and therefore avoided serious problems. Luis Muriel suffered a head trauma in a domestic incident, but he is fine and will be back for the next match.

Bologna: Federico Santander and Andrea Poli have recovered from their thigh injuries. Mattia Bani is pretty much done for the season with a calf strain. Jerdy Schouten (thigh) will be back in a pair of weeks.

Brescia: Jesse Joronen is out with an undisclosed injury, joining Andrea Cistana (tibia), Enrico Alfonso and Dimitri Bisoli (patellar tendon) on the mend. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 24

SPAL-Juventus: Luigi Di Biagio devised a new system in his debut, arraying his men with a 4-3-3. While they failed to get the win, they attacked more than usual and Andrea Petagna bagged the ninth goal of his campaign. Federico Di Francesco has always been playing in very offensive role, but he is more comfortable out wide and the trident was completed by Mattia Valoti in that case, although Gabriel Strefezza will have his chances too. The duo gets a bump thanks to the coaching change, likewise Mirko Valdifiori, who resurfaced and can be a decent weapon on set pieces, as a matter of fact he picked up an assist with a corner kick. Simone Missiroli is back at box-to-box like earlier in his career, joining the sneaky Lucas Castro. On the downside, Arkadiusz Reca, and Mohamed Fares when he will be ready, will feature as fullback, so few meters behind what they were accustomed to doing. Scoring has been one of their main issues so far, as they have no reliable contributors behind Petagna. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 18

Atalanta: Duvan Zapata has resumed practicing fully after his complicate thigh injury and he is fully expected to be available against Parma, but the capacity remains to be determined. Pierluigi Gollini is dealing with the flu.

Bologna: Blerin Dzemaili is under the weather and is out, Federico Santander has recovered from a tibia bruise, while Ladislav Krejci will likely miss another one with a sore knee.

Brescia: Alfredo Donnarumma and Emanuele Ndoj are on the wrong side of questionable due to muscular problems. Bruno Martella joined the long list of sick players this week.  Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round Two

Atalanta: Timothy Castagne will miss another one as he is recovering from a meniscus tear, but he should be ready after the break.

Bologna: no absentees for the Felsinei who will play tonight.

Brescia: Mario Balotelli continue serving his suspension, while Giangiacomo Magnani will miss another one too. Ernesto Torregrossa has recovered and might start. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 1

Atalanta: Josip Ilicic is a suspended, while Luis Muriel is sick, which will cost him a place in the XI but not the call-upTimothy Castagne had surgery to remove a torn meniscus and should miss the first two games.

Bologna: Jerdy Schouten picked up a knee sprain in the pre-season but he has recovered enough to be called up. 

Brescia: Mario Balotelli is disqualified for the first four fixtures, while Ales Mateju will sit out just the first one for the same reason. Emmanuel Ndoj is dealing with an ankle injury that will cost him some time. Andrea Cistana missed the recent Coppa Italia game for a similar, but smaller, issue, but could be back for the opening match. Daniele Dessena, Daniele Gastaldello have recovered from small injuries, while Giangiacomo Magnani and Ernero Torregrossa have been ruled out.  Continue reading

SPAL 2013: Serie A’s Ambitious Party Crashers

petagna

After declaring bankruptcy in 2005, SPAL’s future as a club was put into serious doubt. In order to stay alive, they moved the club to the city of Ferrara in 2012, and just five years ago, the Serie A minnows renamed themselves to SPAL 2013. Competing in Italy’s third tier, Lega Pro, SPAL 2013 started from square one and knew they faced an uphill battle at subsistence.

Today, SPAL are sitting comfortably in mid-table, securing their place in Italy’s top division for consecutive seasons. Not even the most optimistic SPAL supporter would have envisioned their meteoric rise in recent years. While their return to Serie A was filled with hardships and uncertainty with their survival going down to the wire, this season was everything but that.

The Emilia-Romagna based outfit, led by Leonardo Semplici, have played some sensational football to date, beating the likes of Roma, Lazio, and Juventus on their way to salvation. However, this season represented much more than just surviving another year. With Semplici at the helm, SPAL pride themselves on playing attractive football, and are one of the few sides within the peninsula that blend experience with youth.

Last summer, fresh from avoiding the drop, SPAL turned to the transfer window, and signed experienced Serie A players. Their mission was clear. They wanted to do more in Serie A than simply make up the numbers, and sent a clear message of intent to the rest of the league with their acquisitions. Andrea Petagna and Jasmin Kurtic were brought in from Atalanta, while Sassuolo’s Simone Missiroli was identified to tidy up the midfield.

Armed with their experience, SPAL understood they had more than enough to guarantee their Serie A status for another season. In Petagna, SPAL have a target man capable of scoring with his head and both feet for years to come. Currently, the Atalanta loanee is on 15 goals on the season, and counting. Missiroli, by contrast, joins Kurtic and Pasquale Schiattarella in what is an overall experienced midfield, and remain one of the league’s underrated trios due to their age.

Semplici’s men, however, would not stop there, and also brought in a number of young prospects including goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, Torino’s Kevin Bonifazi, Hellas Verona’s Mohamed Fares, Lazio’s Alessandro Murgia among others. Together, these players offered some much needed depth, and youth at crucial times throughout the season. Factor in club veteran Manuel Lazzari’s industrious nature on the right wing along with these acquisitions, and it’s clear, SPAL possess a truly dynamic and versatile roster capable of hurting any side in Italy on their day. After all, this season they beat Roma, home AND away.

Off the pitch, SPAL have emerged as an example for the rest of the league’s provinciali, as well. When they made the leap to Serie B, the club restructured their stadium to comply with the league’s safety and comfort guidelines.

In the summer of 2018, the Stadio Paolo Mazza went under further construction, and their seating capacity was raised from 13,135 seats to 16,134. In an era where most Italian clubs get bogged down by bureaucracy and paperwork, including some of Serie A’s major players, SPAL have been able to carve out a home for themselves within Ferrara, and don’t look like they’re ready to stop anytime soon. While modest in size, SPAL possess one of the more modern grounds within the league.  

If their plans for expansion are anything to go by, expect to see Semplici’s men continue their rise for years to come. After all, despite suffering countless set-backs, SPAL 2013 have shown they’re ready to roll with the punches and adapt. At a time where most Italian football sides are content with maintaining the status quo, SPAL are holding their own, and redefining boundaries within the Italian game in the process. And for that, they should be commended.

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SPAL make an excellent start to 2018-19 Serie A season

spaltamai

Italian side SPAL have begun the new Serie A season in determined style, shaking of their early tag of relegation candidates.

Back-to-back 1-0 wins over Bologna and Parma, has given them a 100% start, sitting in third, behind Napoli and Juventus.

The Ferrara-based side returned to the Italian top flight in 2017, for the first time since 1968, however they struggled to establish themselves, finishing 17th and just three points off relegation.

However they have began their second season in Serie A in stark contrast, picking up from the late season form, that ultimately saved them from the drop.

Continue reading

Serie A Player Status Updates – Round 17

luisalberto

As always, busy times ahead for Serie A medical staff and clinics as they try to help the injured players recover. Continue reading