Can Lazio end Juventus’ Serie A dominance?
The Old Lady have won eight league titles in a row
The resumption of the 2019/20 Serie A season is underway, and to the surprise of many, Juventus have a challenger at the top of the table.
In seasons gone by, we’ve seen the likes of AC Milan, Inter Milan, AS Roma and Napoli go close to knocking the Old Lady off their perch, but they’ve inevitably failed to maintain a title push.
But this season, there’s the reemergence of an old Italian powerhouse at the top. Lazio are sitting pretty in second, just four points behind Juventus, having played a game less than the champions. We’ve got them at 3/1 to go all the way.
With a maximum of 12 games remaining for each team this season, we look at whether this Lazio side can maintain their push for a first Serie A title since the 1999/00 season, and the key fixtures for each side that could determine where the title ends up.
After 26 games, only Atalanta have scored more goals than Lazio, with I Biancocelesti scoring 60 times so far this campaign.
Almost half of those have been scored by one man. After an incredible spell at Torino, unsuccessful stints in Germany and Spain with Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla followed for Ciro Immobile, but that wasn’t enough to put Lazio off.
Now 30-years-old, Lazio are enjoying the peak of Immobile’s career, with the Italian frontman scoring 27 league goals, and adding 7 assists. He’s averaging a goal every 81 minutes so far this season.
He’s five clear of the next highest goalscorer in the league, Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s managed 22 so far. Strike partner Felipe Caicedo is Lazio’s next highest scorer with only eight, while Joaquín Correa has added seven to their total too.
There’s a fluidity about their attack, with constant movement and rotation on the pitch, making it so hard for the opposition to stop.
Immobile and Correa usually drop deeper to pick up the ball, allowing Luis Alberto or even Sergej Milinković-Savić to fill in the space, and create pockets for the attackers to move into elsewhere.
The addition of flying wing-backs adds another dimension, providing accurate crosses into the box and forcing the opponent’s defenders to make quick decisions. This has often resulted in mistakes, including fouls in the box. Lazio have scored 11 of their awarded penalties, with Immobile scoring 10.
Improvements in key areas
At the start of the season, few would have called that Lazio would have the best defensive record in the league at this stage of the campaign.
Yet, with only 23 goals conceded in 26 games, it’s the experience and consistency of Francesco Acerbi, Ştefan Radu and Luiz Felipe that have given Lazio a back line they can depend on.
Former player and current manager, Simone Inzaghi, has been in charge since 2016. In that time, he’s implemented a 3-5-1-1/3-5-2 system that his side have perfected this season
Felipe may not have the experience and tactical intelligence of Radu and Acerbi, but he’s got the pace and strength that they lack.
On top of that, wing-backs Manuel Lazzari and Senad Lulić have found the perfect balance of attack and defence during transitions, forming a solid line of five when under pressure, before bombing forward to add width in attack.
Inzaghi has managed to find the perfect balance in the centre of the park too, with a midfield three of Milinković-Savić, Alberto and Lucas Leiva.
Former Liverpool man Leiva has been given a new lease of life in Italy, with a slower-paced game allowing his footballing brain, filled with defensive knowhow, to make him one of the best defensive midfielders in the league.
His partnership with Milinković-Savić, one of the most highly-coveted midfielders in world football now, provides a further defensive barrier when under threat, and allows Alberto to push further forward on his own to enhance attacking options.
Should both sides match each other’s results throughout the course of the run in, there’s one fixture that stands out as a potential title decider.
In late July, Juventus host Lazio at the Allianz Stadium, in what could prove to be a winner takes all contest. In December, it was I Biancocelesti who came out on top, beating a 10-man Juventus side 3-1.
Matches against Atalanta and AC Milan await both sides too, while Juventus are due to face AS Roma in their final match of the campaign. At the same time, a trip to Naples to take on Napoli stands before Lazio and their quest for a first title in 20 years.
All odds and markets are correct as of date of publication.