Lazio face test of squad depth as fixtures, injuries and suspensions pile up

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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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Ending Napoli curse could be watershed moment in Lazio’s Champions League chase

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It’s all too easy to get lost in football statistics nowadays.

For followers of Lazio, this has been truer than ever of late. Every match, every win, every goal, seems to set a new historic landmark or shatter some long-standing record.

Among the avalanche of numbers and information that has tumbled from the slipstream of the Roman club’s nine-match winning run in Serie A was an important moment for Simone Inzaghi.

The Lazio coach had never beaten his Juventus counterpart Maurizio Sarri until December’s thrilling 3-1 victory at the Stadio Olimpico, only to then go and repeat the feat just two weeks later to win the Supercoppa Italiana in Riyadh.

Continue reading

Lazio won’t win the Scudetto – but that doesn’t mean their herculean efforts don’t deserve celebration

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Lazio’s win over Juventus on Saturday was a statement.

Coming from behind to become the first team to beat Maurizio Sarri’s side this season certainly peaked the attention of any dozy onlookers who hadn’t noticed the momentum building on the blue side of Rome.

The result spoke volumes about the progress this team is making. And it spoke loudly.

It said that Simone Inzaghi’s side are no flat-track bullies, that this is a team capable of beating anyone on their day.

It said that the days of flopping on the big occasion, of failing to respond to adversity, of choking at crucial moments, are behind them. Continue reading

Lazio’s sensational form is no coincidence – they’ve fixed two long-standing issues

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Nothing beats a late winner.

That’s what Lazio have learned lately, most recently when Felipe Caicedo swivelled his hips and fired a shot into the bottom corner to snatch victory at Sassuolo last weekend.

It was a crucial goal, one that saw the capital club pull two points clear of Roma and Cagliari in third place and continue their outstanding domestic form with a fifth consecutive Serie A victory.

But after the dust settled, there was another great positive to take from the game. Continue reading

Time for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to wake up from hibernation and join in the fun at Lazio

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Lazio passed their autumn test with flying colours.

A demanding run of league fixtures between the October and November international breaks, interspersed with Europa League outings, promised to be the make-or-break moment of the season for Simone Inzaghi’s side after a mixed start.

It’s safe to say that taking 13 points from a possible 15 in games against Atalanta, Fiorentina, Torino, Milan and Lecce exceeded expectations.

Not only that, but it left the Biancocelesti in third place, albeit on goal difference, restoring their Champions League dream. Continue reading

Lazio don’t need a change of coach – but they do need their coach to change

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It would’ve been painful, if it wasn’t so predictable.

As Christopher Jullien flew through the Glasgow night sky towards an inswinging corner, every Lazio fan knew what was coming before it happened.

The Lazio defence stood gazing in admiration at the defender as he rose. Bang. 2-1 Celtic. One minute to go. Inevitable.

It was the third time this season that Lazio have blown a 1-0 half time lead to lose 2-1, after similar debacles against Cluj and SPAL.

When they’re not doing that, they’re coming from behind twice and missing a stoppage time penalty to draw with Bologna, or mounting a frankly ridiculous comeback from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 with Atalanta. Continue reading

So much for ‘Year Zero’: Like a moody teenager, presumptuous Lazio refuse to learn lessons

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Old habits die hard. But what if they refuse to die at all?

That, sadly, appears to be the reality facing Lazio after a week in which a familiar trait reared its ugly head twice in the space of five days.

In mirror-image matches, Lazio took the lead away to technically inferior sides, SPAL in Serie A and Cluj in the Europa League, before whimpering to a pair of 2-1 defeats.

Technically inferior they may be, but those teams taught Simone Inzaghi’s men a lesson in the importance of desire and character.

But what’s the point in even attending lessons if you’re not going to learn? Continue reading

The facts behind the figures: What we’ve learned about Lazio from the Serie A salary report

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At the start of the week, La Gazzetta dello Sport published its annual breakdown of each Serie A club’s wage bill for the season ahead.

Much of the reaction to the article has focused on Juventus’ massive financial advantage over the rest of Italy and the impact the summer mercato has had on Inter’s spending.

But there were plenty of intriguing sub-plots to be found behind the figures, not least at Lazio. For example…

On paper, a top-four finish would be an over-achievement…

This is by no means a secret, but the gulf in wage spend between Lazio and the teams they are expected to compete with for a top four place this season is significant.  Continue reading

Lazio’s quest for Champions League football has been long and painful – but this could be their time

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Ahead of the opening weekend of the Serie A season, there is no doubt about Lazio’s objective.

Champions League football has proven infuriatingly elusive for the Roman club since they last graced the competition in 2007/08, as they’ve found just about every imaginable way of not quite getting there.

In 2010/11 they finished fifth, losing out on a play-off place to Udinese on goal difference. Continue reading

Three Players Lazio Are Set to Target

After yet another indifferent season in the nation’s capital, Lazio are now turning to the transfer window to bolster their roster. Following Simone Inzaghi’s contract extension, Lazio president Claudio Lotito is ready to reward his loyalty with a few signings. Over the past few days, a number of names have been linked with the biancocelesti. This season, their squad lacked depth, and inevitably cost them top four; a prospect Lotito and co. are looking to avoid next season.

1) Wesley Moraes – Club Brugge

Lazio have been linked with the Brazilian for the last couple of transfer windows, and seem to be closing in on him this coming summer. In recent times, Gianluca Di Marzio has reported that Lazio have offered Club Brugge 15 million euros plus an additional 5 million in bonuses. Barring any hitches, the deal should be closed shortly.

The target man would provide some much needed depth to Lazio’s front-line, and could act as the perfect foil to Ciro Immobile and Felipe Caicedo. At times this season, the Italian international was tasked with leading the line on his own, and could use the rest. Moraes is capable of holding up play as a target man or take on his defender.

Give his physical stature, Wesley will slot in wonderfully into the Italian game, and he’ll be able to impose himself on his new surroundings.

2) Manuel Lazzari – SPAL

The SPAL wingback had a phenomenal season with the Ferrara-based club, and is now attracting interest from Italy’s bigger clubs. In 33 appearances this season, Lazzari registered eight assists, and was a true force down the right, earning his first call-up to the senior national team.

This season, Lazio desperately needed depth at the wingback position, and generally deployed Adam Marusic down the right. However, after a bright debut season, the 25-year-old slowed down, and much like Immobile, needed rest. In his 40 appearances in all competitions, the Montenegrin scored three goals and added one assist; a far cry from his first season with Lazio.

Signing Lazzari would go a long way as it would not only offer some much needed fresh legs, but would also encourage competition.

3) Daniele Baselli – Torino 

Another player that has recently been linked to a move to Lazio is Torino’s Daniele Baselli. Since joining I Granata, Baselli’s game has stagnated, and he arguably needs a move away to further his development. Before joining Torino, Baselli was one of Italy’s most highly-rated youngsters, due to his impressive technique and wide range of passing.

While Lazio’s midfield ranks are deep enough for the time being, Marco Parolo, Lucas Leiva and Milan Badelj aren’t getting any younger, and could use some refreshing. Moreover, Baselli has a different skill-set to Inzaghi’s current midfielders, and could offer some much needed invention from the middle of the park.

His five goals in all competitions demonstrate that the talent’s there for Baselli, but he may need a change of scenery to continue his progression. Inzaghi might just prove to be the right manager for the 27-year-old, as he has a positive track record with players ready to take the next step.

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