Arguably one of the most enthralling matches between two Italian teams came before the season even started. Paulo Dybala’s 91st-minute equaliser was outdone in the drama stakes by Alessandro Murgia’s winner at the 93rd to hand Lazio a deserved Italian Super Cup win over Juventus in August. Fast forward two months and both are still flying high in Serie A, fuelling enthusiasm for another potential barnstormer between the two.
On the weekend of Derby della Madonnina and Derby del Sole, the best viewing may be found in Turin this Saturday.
Before their Supercoppa triumph, Lazio had failed to beat Juventus in their last 14 attempts, and but for that win, it would be difficult to see any other result this weekend.
But then, Simone Inzaghi found it. After several failed encounters, he found a way to expose the Bianconeri’s’ defensive frailties, and most importantly nullify their immense attacking threat for the best part of 85 minutes. It was not just Juventus, as the Biancocelesti’s 4-1 demolition of Milan shows.
The fact that Lazio are in a position to leapfrog their opponents in the table with a win is indicative of both how well they have started the season and how much is at stake this early, with ground to make up on table-toppers Napoli. The international break arguably came at an unwanted time for both sides. Lazio put six goals past Sassuolo in their last match, and although Juve were held to a draw at Atalanta, it would always prove a testing tie and came off the back of six straight wins.
With Lazio showing a keen eye for goal of late, the fixture may be decided by which side’s star strikers has the better time in front of the net. Dybala has lit up the league so far, leading the scoring charts with 10 goals, and Immobile is not far behind on nine, but hit 13 in all competition. Both also scored a brace in the Supercoppa, but their performances differed greatly.
Dybala’s attacking threat was stymied in the first half by Lucas Leiva, rendering him ineffectual from open play, with his goals coming from a free-kick (a spectacularly taken one at that) and a penalty. Without injured Miralem Pjanic to help, Juve may look to La Joya to provide a creative spark under likely increased marking and pressure.
Immobile meanwhile showcased some of the best facets of his game – pace – and demonstrated his aerial prowess in heading in his side’s second. It may indeed require a solo act, with many of the supporting cast on the side-lines. The Old Lady are without the aforementioned Pjanic, as well as Benedikt Howedes, Mattia De Sciglio and Marko Pjaca. Mario Mandzukic and Andrea Barzagli have also picked up knocks on international duty.
While Mandzukic’s role in the team is an important one, and no doubt they look stronger with him, it opens the door for a new approach to the match, such as the utilisation of wingers Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi. Both made an appearance from the bench in the Super Cup, and though Juve’s goals came from set pieces, the directness of the wingers - particularly Douglas Costa - helped stretch the Lazio back line and create opportunities.
Moreover, Mandzukic often drifts towards the centre-forward role, which made it difficult for Alex Sandro to navigate his way past Dusan Basta and a covering midfielder. Only later in the match could he have a significant impact, winning the penalty for Juve’s equaliser.
Allegri was out-coached in their first encounter this season, and admitted as much. And while Inzaghi will stick to the tactics that earned him his first piece of silverware in his tenure at the club, Allegri may well learn and adapt to ensure his side resume their dominance over Lazio.