Lazio’s 2019/20 end of season report card

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What a year it’s been for Lazio. The 2019/20 season will never be forgotten due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but for Aquile fans a whirlwind league campaign and long-awaited return to the Champions League will stick in the memory too.

Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to grade the efforts of the capital club.

The Serie A campaign: A-

A bitterly disappointing season finale is still fresh in the memory. Lazio were a shadow of their former selves when they returned from the three-month break and fell from one point off the Serie A summit to fourth place. Continue reading

Record-breaking Lazio burst back into life in time for the final act

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What a difference a win can make. You could almost feel the sighs of relief breezing through your window on Thursday night in Rome, as a 2-1 victory for Lazio over Cagliari secured a top four finish.

Last week, I noted the improvements seen in the 0-0 draw against Udinese. The display during the 2-1 defeat to Juventus that followed was also encouraging despite the result, considering the ludicrous list of absences facing Simone Inzaghi.

Regardless, Lazio went into the clash with the Sardinians without a win in five matches.

Some of the more pessimistic supporters were even starting to glance over their shoulder towards Roma, creeping up behind them in fifth. Continue reading

Vulnerable Juventus could be perfect prey for Lazio attack to rediscover spark

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It was a sign of the times that a 0-0 draw against Udinese felt like progress for Lazio.

A run of three consecutive defeats against Milan, Lecce and Sassuolo ended the Roman club’s Scudetto dream, as they struggled to rediscover the swagger that was on show earlier in the season.

But taking a point in Udine stopped the rot – at least to a certain extent. The first half display was particularly positive as Lazio played at a higher tempo, asked more questions of the opposition defence and dominated possession.

But the familiar issue of tired legs and minds crept in after the break, and in the end Simone Inzaghi’s side had goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha and the post to thank for keeping out an improved Udinese. Continue reading

No defence for Lazio defence after Lecce horror show

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Tuesday night’s defeat in Lecce was a startling wake-up call to the scale of Lazio’s decline since football restarted. 

Defeats to Atalanta and Milan had sandwiched comeback wins against Fiorentina and Torino ahead of the capital club’s trip to the deep south of Italy.

There were already plenty of concerns over the team’s performances before they travelled to Puglia, but there were also convenient ways of excusing the two previous losses.

The trip to Atalanta, a 3-2 defeat, was Lazio’s first game back, while the hosts had already got a game under their belt. Continue reading

Depleted Lazio need fringe players to step up in season finale

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Lazio were late to the party. By the time they stepped onto the pitch in Bergamo on Wednesday evening, every Serie A side bar the two Roman clubs had experienced their first taste of post-lockdown football. 

Nervous biancocelesti fans were aware that a win was required to maintain a one-point gap to leaders Juventus, and that victory wouldn’t be easily obtained against a free-scoring Atalanta side that battered Sassuolo 4-1 on their return. Continue reading

Fan Zone: Gregory returns to discuss Juve in Europe, Higuain, Tonali & more

Gregory Caltabanis- who covers European football and is part of the team @FantaCalcioGame- is back with the second part of our Q&A! This time Gregory focuses on the Champions League but also talks about potential transfers and Juve’s reputation as a top destination for free agents (this June- or whenever FIFA/UEFA decide the contracts ending in June 2020 will now end after the pandemic).

Let us get straight to the answers by Gregory!

1) Juve have a great reputation signing players for free or at a bargain. Who is the candidate to be the next Juve bargain?

Tough to say. I’m not a huge fan of the players available on a free transfer this summer, but I wouldn’t be against making a move for Thomas Meunier. We need a right-back and he would come free. I recently saw Bayern Munich signed Charles Aranguiz, which I think will be the Bosman move of the summer.

Beyond that, bringing back Rolando Mandragora could be cost-efficient. I also like Bologna’s young prospects such as Jerdy Schouten, Nicolas Dominguez and Andreas Skov Olsen. Riccardo Orsolini is definitely one to keep an eye on, but I don’t think he would come cheap.

2) Would you rather sign Erling Haaland (striker), Sandro Tonali (MID) or Achraf Hakimi (DEF)? Who is your choice and why?

If I must pick one, then I would have to go with Tonali. If we don’t sign him and he joins a rival, I get the feeling we’ll regret it for the next ten years. He is exactly what we’re missing in the midfield. Eventually, I’d love for us to sign Haaland, but he’s not a priority right now as there are plenty of strikers we can sign.

Hakimi is an interesting one as well, but I see him returning to Real Madrid this summer or next. If I had to throw in another name for the right back spot, I would go for Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira.

3) Harry Kane’s stats are decent despite being sidelined due to injury. Would you be for signing Kane?

He’s definitely a top ten striker in the world right now, but I would stay away from him if I were Juve. I just don’t think he’s a good fit with the current roster. His scoring record is very impressive, but I feel like he’s lost a step over the past few years. Considering the price tag he would command, I would look elsewhere.

4) Do you believe Higuain has proven he’s worth the 90m fee paid to sign him?

Higuain has given Juve two very good seasons and has scored some important goals, but I can’t help but feel 90M was a bit excessive. That being said, he was playing for a direct competitor and the only way we would have signed him was by triggering his release clause. Ultimately, we didn’t win a Champions League with him, but he’s been integral to our domestic success. Bit of a mixed bag.

5) If European competition returns, will Juve overcome Lyon? How confident are you?

100%. The first leg against them was our worst performance of the season, but I’m absolutely confident we will overturn this narrow deficit. All we need is one goal and the whole tie will change. We pulled off a bigger comeback against Atletico last season and I don’t see why we can’t repeat the feat against a Lyon team without Memphis Depay.

6) One team you’d like Juve to avoid meeting in the Champions League?

It may come as a surprise but Red Bull Leipzig. The Germans press intensely and are incredibly difficult to break down. While I think we would beat them over two legs, we match up pretty poorly against their style of play and would have difficulty keeping up with the pace. They’re deadly on the counter and I fear Werner could hurt us.

7) One team you’d like Juve to avoid playing in the Champions League final?

Right now it has to be Bayern Munich. Before play was suspended, they were in incredible form and looked like the Bayern of old. With their European pedigree and deep midfield options, I get the feeling they’re favorites to win it all.

Atletico is another interesting one. We got the better of them this season, but I wouldn’t want to play against a Simeone-led side in a one-off final. We all saw how they eliminated Liverpool and could be extremely dangerous if play resumes.

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