Football calendars all over western Europe are beginning to draw to a close, fans of clubs fighting for survival will be poring over the final few fixtures with their calculators trying to desperately scrape every point possible to prove their side’s survival mathematically. No side in Serie A are more concerned with their side’s form than Lazio. This season marks the 10th Anniversary of the roman side’s second scudetto under the frivolous direction of Sven Goran Eriksson and the liberal chequebook of Sergio Cragnotti.
How fitting then that this season has been a succinct snapshot of the past decade. Lazio began the season with a victory against Inter in the Italian Super Cup, Italy’s charity shield, coming from behind to win 2-1. This lead to some solid and inspired victories against Atalanta and Chievo in the league and Elfsborg in a Europa League qualifier. With European competition confirmed and the team looking good in Serie A they welcomed Juventus to the Stadio Olimpico looking to defend their 100% record. The defeat, 0-2, while not ideal was still a respectable result against a good Juventus side.
The result triggered a complete breakdown throughout the Lazio squad, the undercurrent of problems regarding the ostracised players Ledesma and Pandev began to come to the fore. The players were banished from participating with any first team activities as is the custom for rebellious players at many Italian clubs. The slump left Lazio searching for another win between the end of August and December 13th when they finally beat Genoa. They went into the Christmas break sitting perilously close the relegation zone. Something had to change when they came back in the new year.
The New year began with a number of changes, both good and bad. First of all Goran Pandev’s case was finally heard and resolved. He had been freed by the CAS and Inter snapped him up almost immediately, this was a big blow. Lazio had lost a player who could’ve been great for them, for free and had not even been allowed to contribute to any form of campaign this season. Sergio Floccari was brought in and scored in the opening game of the year, which was a 4-1 win against Livorno. An obvious false dawn given Livorno’s slip to the bottom of the table.
After this it was back to business as normal, losing and drawing against teams we would have expected to beat before the beginning of the season. Time had finally run out for Davide Ballardini and he was promptly asked to leave the club on the 10th February. New manager syndrome provided a 2-0 victory away to Parma on valentines day but this was followed by a draw and 3 defeats. One of Reja’s stipulations was that he would bring Cristian Ledesma out of the wilderness and he would have full control over matters of player discipline, or else.
A home to defeat to Bari, the first in over 25 years, left Lazio in the relegation places. This led the Lazio boss to take his team on retreat to Norcia in Umbria. Reja was outraged when busy-body chairman Lotito arranged for a sports psychologist to turn up and counsel the demoralised squad. Reja came out and stated that he alone would decide who would see the psychologist, in the end no one did surprisingly.
Lazio haven’t been helped by the very good seasons that Bari and Parma have had but they need to pick up as many points as possible as they look toward the final quarter of the season. They will have to target fixtures such as tonight’s game against relegation rivals Siena. Here are my predictions for their run-in.
|24 Mar||Siena (H)|
|28 Mar||Milan (A)|
|03 Apr||Napoli (H)|
|11 Apr||Bologna (A)|
|18 Apr||Roma (H)|
|24 Apr||Genoa (A)|
|01 May||Inter (H)|
|08 May||Livorno (A)|
|15 May||Udinese (H)|
This is a very tough run in, they will need to pick up points against Siena, Livorno and Udinese. They will also be playing all 3 title contenders in Inter, Milan and Roma. These games will almost certainly end in defeat but any upsets will be very much appreciated by a side who need every point they can get. Games against Napoli and Genoa will be the games where points, though not expected, are achievable.
In the past 3 seasons 36 points has been enough to keep the side in 17th place up. Lazio can hope to achieve this watermark with wins 3 wins against their rivals. However one of these will have to come on the final day of the season. Nervous times are ahead for fans of the roman club, this is a season where victory in the Rome derby would be so so sweet.