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.
The message was clear – this is not a punishment, but a moment to address the elephant in the room.
Lazio’s failure to beat rock-bottom Chievo last weekend, a game that they needed to come from behind to take a point from, sparked an inevitable wave of criticism and pushed the club hierarchy into calling the first ‘ritiro’ of Simone Inzaghi’s reign.
It was the capital club’s third league draw in a row, with a dismal Europa League defeat to Apollon Limassol coming between those results, and came at a cost as Milan leapfrogged the Biancocelesti into the fourth and final Champions League spot they are so desperate to make their own. Continue reading →
The next round features one of the games of the season, Juventus-Inter, and few other juicy match-ups.
Juventus-Inter: the Bianconeri got the better of Fiorentina, extending their winning streak to five fixtures, but in that occasion they were not as dominant as the final score showed. Against Roma, Inter dropped points for the second time in a row on the road and, despite scoring twice, they never looked in control. The same thing happened in Bergamo, but they are extremely opportunistic, so they can never be counted out. Cristiano Ronaldo added one to his tally with a penalty in Florence, while Rodrigo Bentancur continues to impress. Mario Mandzukic is generally money in big matches, while Douglas Costa has the potential to be a factor off the bench. Despite being useful in other areas, Paulo Dybala’s offensive stats in Serie A have been subpar. Continue reading →
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 →
As Black Friday fever sweeps the continent and consumers furiously scramble for the best discounts, football clubs across Europe are also beginning to eye up deals with the January transfer market close at hand.
Only three months have passed since the summer business was completed, but in that time one player has notably featured less and less in the Italian gossip columns: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
During the summer, the Lazio midfielder was the €120m man, one of the most sought-after properties on the market and a rumoured target for just about every big club going: Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, you name it. Continue reading →
Juventus: Federico Bernardeschi and Sami Khedira will not play this week because of an adductor issue and an ankle sprain. Miralem Pjanic should be available after a little muscular ailment with Bosnia. Emre Can is recovering from thyroid surgery. The two German players could return within a couple of weeks, the Italian winger sooner.
Napoli: Simone Verdi worked his way back from a thigh problem, but rolled his ankle in practice and could miss some time. Amin Younes has shaken off the Achilles injury, but he had the same problem of his teammate, even though his one is considered milder. Alex Meret is dealing with a sore shoulder on top of going through a bumpy rehab from a forearm fracture. Dries Mertens got a bruise in practice.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 scars of the 2017/18 season finale will take some time to heal for Lazio fans.
A final-day collapse to Inter saw the Roman club throw away a Champions League spot, before star defender Stefan de Vrij headed to their conquerors on a free transfer, soon to be joined in the departure lounge by West Ham-bound Felipe Anderson.
This came little over a month after the Aquile had conceded three goals in four minutes to throw away a Europa League semi-final place to RB Salzburg.
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 →
After spending one season away from the club on loan at Benevento, Danilo Cataldi has grown leaps and bounds and is now ready to compete for a starting spot in the nation’s capital. The 24-year-old was always seen among the best in his class from a young age, yet failed to progress his game in recent years. Equally capable of picking a pass or firing from range, Cataldi’s skill-set is undoubtedly something Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi will look to utilize as his side competes on three fronts.
Despite his improvements, Cataldi found playing time hard to come by since returning to Lazio, and was mainly used off the bench. Considering the experience of Lucas Leiva, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Marco Parolo and their familiarity with Inzaghi’s system, this came as no surprise. Up until today’s game against Spal, Cataldi was yet to start a game in league play and had to make do with cameo appearances. However, expect that to change in the coming weeks.