Lazio season preview: Will the Aquile fly again in 2020/21?

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It’s time to go again already? Well yes, and Lazio are actually arriving late to the party.

Simone Inzaghi’s men are back in action on Saturday when they hop across the Mediterranean to Sardinia to take on a Cagliari side led by former Roma boss Eusebio Di Francesco.

Lazio’s delay in getting underway was down to the fact that their week one fixture with Atalanta was postponed by 10 days; La Dea were allowed some extra preparation time due to their late 2019/20 finish on Champions League duties.

Where were we?

Lazio’s 2019/20 campaign was a story of two parts: pre-coronavirus and post-coronavirus. Continue reading

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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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

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

How might Lazio solve their striker emergency against AC Milan?

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The phrase ‘selection headache’ gets thrown around a lot in football journalism.

But it wouldn’t be a great surprise if the puzzle facing Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi on Saturday has had him reaching for the paracetamol.

The capital club came from behind to win for the second game in a row against Torino on Tuesday night, a result that kept Serie A leaders Juventus just four points away.

But their efforts came at a price, as strike partners Ciro Immobile and Felipe Caicedo picked up bookings that ruled them out of Saturday’s clash with AC Milan at the Stadio Olimpico through suspension. 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

Lazio’s Secret: Sometimes the best deals are those you don’t make

You can drive yourself crazy going down the rabbit holes of “what if?”. This obviously applies to your day to day life, but when it comes to sports we all too often look at this from the perspective of what if my team had signed player X or hired manager Y- think of Juventus choosing Poulsen over Xabi Alonso or Manchester United picking Moyes for life after Sir Alex Ferguson.

But this current Lazio team is the best demonstration that this also applies also to the players and manager who are leading them to success. In fact Sergej Milinkovic Savic who scored the game winner and manager Simone Inzaghi weren’t even supposed to be on this team.

Back in 2015, Milinkovic Savic was a promising midfielder at Genk who had acquired him the year before Vokvodina for less than a half a million euro. The Bosnian midfielder caught the attention of both Fiorentina and Lazio the following summer, Milinkovic Savic visited the biancocelesti’s facilities at Formello and fell in love with the city and the club.

However Fiorentina took the lead in the race and a few weeks later Milinkovic Savic travelled to the club’s headquarters in Tuscany to sign his contract, but this is where he got cold feet and decided to pull a U turn and sign with Lazio who closed the deal with Genk for around 10 million (the Belgian club had retained a percentage on the future sale which Lazio eventually was able to negotiate out of his contract by paying financial considerations upfront).

Once Milinkovic Savic fully broke out at Lazio during the 2017-18 season, it felt almost inevitable he would leave. Lazio had failed to qualify for the Champions League and the upcoming World Cup in Russia was set to be the perfect stage for the Serbian Sergeant to become a huge name on the market. Instead Serbia flamed out, Milinkovic Savic’s performances dropped after his first strong initial game and there were no suitors willing to pay Lazio’s president Lotito’s asking price of 100 million euro.

When the following season Milinkovic Savic failed to play to his previous standards, many wondered if Lazio had asked for way too much for a one season wonder and assumed they would eventually regret the decision. Lazio failed to qualify for the Champions League on the last game of the season and it felt inevitable that Milinkovic Savic would be sold but for far less than the expected 100 million euro return.

In the meantime Lazio gave Milinkovic Savic an extension making him one of the highest paid players on the team, but that didn’t stop clubs like Juventus, Inter, Manchester United and Real Madrid from pursuing him. The bianconeri even agreed to personal terms with Milinkovic Savic, but eventually decided to shoot their load transfer fee wise on Mathijs De Ligt and go with two Bosman signings, Ramsey and Rabiot, to boost their midfield.

This current season has seen a return to form for Milinkovic Savic, who isn’t as flashy now that he plays a more defensive role in Inzaghi;s midfield but has certainly shown an ability to come through in big moments. His poor showing in the last World Cup had helped fuel the story line that Milinkovic Savic crumbled on the biggest stages against top opponents, but this season he has scored the goal that gave Lazio the lead against Juventus last December and the game winner against Inter on Sunday.

Just like Milinkovic Savic, the biancocelesti’s current coach Simone Inzaghi wasn’t supposed to be at the Olimpico on Sunday night. While Pippo’s brother has strong ties to Lazio dating back to his two spells at the club as a player, when he was hired as the first team’s coach back in April of 2016 it was only supposed to be on an interim basis.

Inzaghi was managing Lazio’s Primavera team when Stefano Pioli was sacked before the final stretch of the season. While he achieved very good results by accruing twelve points in the final seven matches of the campaign, Lotito wanted to make a statement signing to keep up with Roma and give his team a jolt.

Lotito was able to convince Marcelo Bielsa to take his flamboyant style to Italy’s capital, everything was set and Lazio even announced his signing and the time for his introductory press conference, Simone Inzaghi was going to continue building his resume at Lotito’s other club Salernitana in Serie B- but then Bielsa bailed and Lazio were found without a manager.    

Lotito quickly decided to give Inzaghi the main job at Lazio where he developed the likes of Milinkovic Savic and Luis Alberto. Last summer there was buzz that Rino Gattuso could be Lazio’s new manager because Inzaghi had become a target for both Juventus and Milan- a rumor that made the fanbases of those clubs about as excited as Star Wars superfans seeing Jar Jar Binks show up at Comic Con.

Juventus had shown interest in Simone Inzaghi because of the similarities of his formation and style with Max Allegri and because of his close relationship with the bianconeri’s sporting director Fabio Paratici, while Milan were looking to hire both sporting director Tare and Inzaghi to relaunch the club- instead Juventus hired Sarri while Milan went for Maldini/Boban/Massara and Giampaolo.

Lazio’s triumph on Sunday against Inter is a reminder that sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make or that a decision that was made a few years ago can still pay huge dividends today- it’s not always about the next big acquisition.

Felipe Caicedo has become one of Serie A’s most underrated strikers – and a role model to the underdogs

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When you go to watch Lazio play at the Olimpico, it is soon obvious who the stars of this team are from the player names appearing on the back of the fans’ shirts.

You will see crowds of Immobile 17, Alberto 10 or Sergej 21 drifting past you as you head through the turnstiles, with the odd Lulic 19, Correa 11 or Lucas 6 thrown in.

There is no shortage of standout players in this team, but those flying under the radar have played a crucial part in their success this season; none more so than Felipe Caicedo.

It wasn’t that long ago, about a year and a half to be precise, that most Lazio fans wanted to see the back of the Ecuadorian as he was scapegoated for their late-season collapse in 2017/18. Continue reading

Lazio continue to be a threat to Juventus with a 5 star performance

Can any club in Italy stop Juventus from winning their 8th title in a row? The nearest challenger seemed to be coming from Inter Milan who have not picked up a title since 2010, but in the background there has been a constant threat and that is from Lazio, who have gone two decades without the league.

Lazio have traditionally been there and thereabouts in season past, but this one the club from Rome have really stepped up, showing the type of consistency that a newer generation has rarely seen.

At the weekend Lazio beat SPAL 5-1 to move to within 2 points of Inter in 2nd and 5 points of Juventus. It was the clubs 15th win of the season. Next weekend they will play Verona at home and Inter will have to play in the Milan derby where points can easily be dropped and there is a chance that Lazio could move into 2nd.

Ciro Immobile has been firing in the goals for Lazio and has simply been brilliant this season, he already has 25 goals and has made 6 assists. So Immobile has been involved in 31 of Lazio’s goals from a total of 52 that’s well over 50% of their league goals this season. Immobile is also on course to break the all time Serie A goal scoring record for a season. Currently it is held by Gonzalo Higuain who broke the record in 2016 when he notched 36 goals in. He will need 12 more goals from 17 games to do it.

Simone Inzaghi is really building up his coaching career and has been a Lazio man since retiring from the game. He played for Lazio for 11 years and has been in the coaching set up of the club since 2010. This season is Inzaghi’s 4th in charge. He has won 3 trophies with the club, all domestic ones and this could be a major season for the club who at worst look like qualifying for the Champions League, but Inzaghi will have the league in his thoughts.

Whilst we can wax lyrical about Immobile’s goals football has never been a one man team and much praise should also go to Luis Alberto. The midfield maestro has scored 3 goals but also has assisted in another 11 goals making him one of the most valuable players in the squad. A defence led by Luiz Felipe has ensured 6 clean sheets this season and that means that Lazio have the 2nd best defensive record in Serie A. As far as goalscoring goes they have 52 and only Atalanta have more than them, skewered slightly by their freakish 7-0 win over Torino last week.

How far Lazio can go is up to them of course. Football can be fine margins because they have lost just 2 games, that’s the same as leaders Juventus and yet there is still a 5 point gap. If Lazio are to surprise everyone with a league win they can’t just rely on Juventus having a few bad games, they will most probably have to face them and beat them too. By the end of this month things should be clearer because 5 points is a gap, just a few more and it would be hard to see Lazio close that.

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Lazio-SPAL: Team news, stats, and prediction

Following 11 straight wins in Serie A, Lazio shared the spoils in the Derby Della Capitale this past weekend but will be looking to return to winning ways against SPAL. Earlier in the season, SPAL beat the biancocelesti comfortably. Will Inzaghi’s men fare better in match-day 22?

Against Roma, Lazio looked off the pace and quite frankly, were fortunate to avoid defeat. Had it not been for an uncharacteristic error from Pau Lopez, Inzaghi’s men were heading for their first loss in sixteen Serie A clashes. Prior to their draw with their fierce rivals, Lazio lost to Napoli in the Coppa Italia, indicating a down-turn in form may be on the cards for the capital-based outfit.

Despite this, Lazio are going into this one with all their starters while the same cannot be said about SPAL. Without further ado, let’s look at the latest team news.

TEAM NEWS

Much like it was the case against Roma, Lazio are expected to be a full strength against SPAL. However, one question mark remains in their starting eleven. Currently, Joaquin Correa’s condition is being monitored and may not feature from the start. Towering forward Felipe Caicedo would step in to replace the Argentine striker.

Beyond that, Inzaghi is expected to name an unchanged lineup with Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic flanking Lucas Leiva in the midfield. As usual, Acerbi will be joined by Radu and Luiz Felipe in defence. Marusic, Cataldi and Lukaku all miss out through injury.

SPAL will mirror Lazio’s 3-5-2 setup, but will have to make do without talisman and newly-acquired Napoli man Andrea Petagna, who’s suspended. Floccari is expected to take his place alongside Di Francesco. Mohamed Fares will miss out once more due to injury while former Lazio midfielder Alessandro Murgia is expected to feature from the start against his former employers.

In addition to Petagna, Mattia Valoti is suspended and will miss this clash. Marco D’Alessandro is also expected to miss this game through injury.

Probable XI’s:

Lazio (3-5-2): Strakosha; Felipe Luiz, Acerbi, Radu; Lazzari, Milinkovic-Savic, Lucas Leiva, Luis Alberto, Lulic; Caicedo, Immobile.

SPAL (3-5-2): Berisha; Tomovic, Vicari, Bonifazi; Strefezza, Dabo, Missiroli, Murgia, Reca; Floccari, Di Francesco.

STATS

- Lazio have scored three goals in their last seven of eight home games.

- Lazio have won their last six Serie A home games.

- In their last six clashes against each other, Lazio have won 3, SPAL have emerged victorious twice and they’ve shared the spoils once.

PREDICTION

With Lazio chasing Juventus and Inter closely, I don’t expect them to drop points against SPAL, especially considering their impressive home record and run of form as of late. While SPAL proved they can get the better of the biancocelesti earlier in the season, Andrea Petagna is a big absence and will likely prove to be the difference in this one. Given Lazio’s firepower and SPAL’s injuries and suspensions to key players, this game is only going to finish one way. With a Lazio win, that is.

Lazio-SPAL: 3-1

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