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Tuesday April 10 2012
Lazio's neurotic glory

They're not fashionable or flamboyant and their season has often descended into farce, but, as Scott Fleming writes, Lazio are on course for the Champions League. 

There is a school of thought which dictates that we should want the teams best equipped for European action, those most capable of defending the sacred co-efficient, to take Italy's Champions League qualification berths. In that case we should probably all be willing on Napoli – the counter-attacking Campanians who charmed the continent this season with their passion and fearlessness – in the race for third place.

However, there is something alluring, something seductively bonkers, about the prospect of Lazio, current occupants of third, grasping that golden ticket at the end of a season filled with more ridiculous plot twists than an episode of Scooby Doo.

Indeed if a mask was ripped off Coach Edy Reja's face and Francesco Totti was revealed underneath, grumbling about how he would have got away with it if it wasn't for those pesky kids, it would explain a lot about the Biancocelesti's campaign.

Reja has attempted to abdicate his post not once but twice, but Serie A's oldest tactician is no drama queen. The 66-year-old had legitimate grievances on both occasions – the unrealistic expectations of fans that wouldn't let him stroll down the street with his wife without insulting him in September, and the incompetence of sporting director Igli Tare in February.

Tare's unsuccessful pursuit of Keisuke Honda and Nilmar – players that always looked like unrealistic targets for a traditionally thrifty club like Lazio – during the January window and purchase of Antonio Candreva – a last minute signing with 'panic buy' stamped on his forehead and a boyhood Roma fan into the bargain – left the Aquile woefully under equipped for their Champions League charge. Or so it seemed.

Ahead of their first visit to the Juventus Stadium tomorrow evening, Lazio are exactly where they want to be, their grip on a top three place tightened by a 3-1 victory over Napoli last Saturday which widened the gap between the clubs to six points. It was a match which captured the personality of Reja's side in all their neurotic glory.

Miroslav Klose and Hernanes were unavailable and withdrawn at half-time respectively, Andre Dias, Senad Lulic and a number of other first teamers were injured. The heroes were distinctly unlikely ones, Candreva of all people opened the scoring having been relentlessly booed throughout his short spell at the Olimpico. Tommaso Rocchi, who's been with the club since he had hair, which was a very long time ago indeed, ran himself silly up front and proved a very able deputy for Klose. “We were not experiencing a great run of form and the Neapolitans were a strong team to face, but we closed ranks and played a great game,” stated Reja.

Reja's coming and going and Tare's boardroom blundering might have given it a slightly slapstick feel, but Lazio's season has also been touched by genuine tragedy, the death of legendary striker Giorgio Chinaglia and the scooter accident which has left 17-year-old youth team defender Mirko Fersini in a coma – events which have either rendered the team’s Champions League quest meaningless, or invested with new meaning, depending on your perspective.

The capital club had just 42 per cent possession on Saturday but won by two clear goals. It’s a trick they've pulled fairly regularly this season. They haven't drawn since December, winning eight and losing seven of their 2012 League fixtures. The losses are often heavy – 4-0 in Siena, 5-1 at Palermo – the wins often narrow and hard won. Basically Lazio aren't, to use a technical term, very good.

Hernanes and Klose are their only two exceptional talents, otherwise their squad is populated by average players and others who you would be bestowing a great compliment upon if you called them average. Yet there they are, streaking ahead of Udinese, Napoli, Roma and Inter. Reja has lemons, but the concoction he's brewing is a lot sweeter than lemonade. 

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Have your say...
Like Napoli this is a squad that doesn't have much depth and hence largely suffers when they can't field a team (e.g. Palermo loss), factor in half weekly appearances, dog acts by management (Tare's fantastic winter transfer strategy) and bang you can forget about a decent season. Strange thing is that if they didn't have as many injuries and actually bought over winter then they probably would be challenging for the title... have you all though about that?!
on the 12th April, 2012 at 7:33am
Pointless to talk about who deserve the 3rd spot or not. But if Lazio get's it, i hope they learn from Napoli. Napoli who is suffering now because of littel depth in squad and tierd players. It's one thing to ahcive it one time, but if you want to achive it every seasson, then the bench must be of similar quality as the starting XI. But i would love Napoli to get it, so they can get the CL money and secure better players, and have a squad to challange in all fronts, and not only a good XI.
on the 11th April, 2012 at 5:48pm
It's fun to see people wanting Palermo, Inter, Roma, Udinese to play in the CL, instead of Lazio.. Come on, Palermo will never be consistent with zamparini in charge, never.. Inter, a has been team, have showed that they can't play this year, they need to revamp the squad before they can start to dream again. Roma, haha,how they have played this year, enough said. Udinese can as Lazio go through, but when push comes to shove, Lazio works harder then the rest, they deserve a chance !
on the 11th April, 2012 at 4:13pm
if Lazio get third then they will sign they have too strenthen! Lolito and Tare should wake up!! $ good signings we can challange the title next season and do well in europe but only if we sign good quality......
on the 11th April, 2012 at 1:29pm
To be clear, I`m Laziale for more than 10 years. Lazio isn`t so big, as was in Cragnotti-era, but Lazio is a classic Italian club, going slow and coming first. Of all clubs, only Lazio and Udinese are real contenders for third position.
Hope for Lazio.
on the 11th April, 2012 at 1:05pm
Lazio don't have a fantastic squad but they are punching above their weight. Signing Klose was great and Hernanes has his moments. Marchetti is still a good keeper and Mauri is a class act when he is fit. They do need some more quality and they need guys like Honda and Olic.

As for Sampdoria in the CL qualifiers, they had a chance but Garrone and Di Carlo ruined it.
on the 11th April, 2012 at 9:11am
Giorgio is correct, the other so called teams are not as good as Lazio so take off your glasses the table does not lie, however if any team can throw it away they are capable just like last year losing to Udinese
on the 11th April, 2012 at 8:03am
I was a laziale back then. When lazio win the winner cups, wins the serie-A, beating Man.Utd in Super Cup.
But since cragnotti left, lazio is not the same team anymore.
This lazio side is good, but not enough for UCL. Lazio now in third place because napoli, udinese, roma, inter are often drop points. we need more team that likely to invest some good players.
Maybe if lazio can sign honda and nilmar there will be hopes. Or maybe lotitto needs to spend more cash.
on the 11th April, 2012 at 7:22am
The season is a marathon and not a sprint. While it is true that they have been up and down during 2012, their body of work speaks for itself. Also, self belief, unity, and cohesion are not often celebrated but provide intangibles that don't surface on the training ground but are in reserve when teams face challenging games or circumstances and Lazio have drawn on this to propel them to this point - good on them and continued success.
on the 11th April, 2012 at 12:34am
Napoli is not a flexible team, I have high doubts they can repeat their success from this seasons campaign. It's simple, just don't let them counter attack, it's all they are relying on, period. Lazio is an exciting team, they have interesting players and during summer there is more to come with Edersin almost done deal. I think the ex giants of Europe do deserve a shot. While Roma have some quality names, they are still very shaky. It's Lazio that deserves the spot, imo.
on the 10th April, 2012 at 7:28pm
And who could even replace Lazio on third position? Napoli, who showed their "incompetence" for two (wait, three) competition in the same time.
Roma, team lead by some guy who think that Barca-style could be used in Italy?! Yeah, say that to Italian defenders. Thrashing in Lecce and numerous other places are well enough.
Inter? They are idiotic. Not even deserve to get a word for this campaign.
Of all, only Udinese could be Lazio`s conteder. Lazio will deservedely emerge on third positon.
FORZA
on the 10th April, 2012 at 5:12pm
say what you want but i think the standing currently is a fair reflection of the tenacity of reja and his team. they deserve to be there coupled with the fact that they have made the best of a bad situation with reference to almost no existent activity on the tranfer mkt in jan.
on the 10th April, 2012 at 4:36pm
Lazio has actually been investing quite well in their team the last few years, and has every indication of doing it again this summer. Nor do they sell their best players off. I think the team everyone has to worry about ending up in Europe is clearly Udinese. There are already reports that Isla, Asamoah and Benatia are gone this summer...

Also, no clue how you can claim a team in third place is "no good". Are you serious? Coupled with last season's respectable finish, this isn't a fluke.
on the 10th April, 2012 at 3:47pm
Scott Fleming:

Mauri ain't average
Marchetti ain't average
Konko ain't average
Lulic ain't average
Rocchi ain't average.

The team being blighted by injuries is not given any emphasis in the article.

And the hint that it is all down to Reja's cooking and not his recipe is rubbish - if anything, Lazio are in their position despite some of Reja's blunderings.

Anyway, they are nowhere near being representative of Serie A in the CL - they need their loaned out strikers back and a top defender.
on the 10th April, 2012 at 3:20pm
Milan fan: I agree in a sense, FIGC should adopt a policy of not entering teams who don't try into Europe because it is damaging our standing in the game. too many treat esp Europa lge as an inconvenience, laying their reserves when it should be a privilege. if you don't want it, give up your place to a team that does! also FIGC needs to force Serie A to put the start of the lge in time so our teams can beat preliminary round. Udinese and Samp never had a chance!
on the 10th April, 2012 at 3:11pm
For the good of Italian football please dont let Lazio get the final Champions league place! We need a team willing to invest and play more attractive football. Napoli would be the ideal team to get 3rd, then Roma, Udinese and even Inter before Lazio. Saying that even Palermo!
If Lazio get 3rd they will go out in the Champions league prelimary ethier by an odd goal to an Eastern European team or get a beating off Arsenal or Valencia. This is fact not fiction.
on the 10th April, 2012 at 2:43pm
I think putting Lulic and Marchetti in the "average" category is pretty unfair. I think this is definitely a Cindarella story right now and I believe that if we do make it to the Champion league this year Lazio will for the first time in years spend some real money and revamp its Roster in sight of what will be a very exciting year for us.

Also one should mention that we have the highest average age in serie A and that experience does count for something!
on the 10th April, 2012 at 2:42pm
Lazio is a club i've never had much affection for, i have relatives who are Romanista! however i am scared of them they way they are at the moment as a Juve fan. i didnt think they deserved to win on sat but still found the goals. we must overcome this hurdle not just for the title but for the co-efficient as Lazio will embarrass Italy in the CL with that squad, wont even qualify! Napoli would have beaten them comfortably a month ago but they are tired just now. They deserve another go in europe
on the 10th April, 2012 at 2:09pm
I dont know how we have done it after slipping up so many times!! 5-0 to palermo lossing to Genoa and others, seems knowone wants to catch us, I dont think our squad is really a top 3 finish but thankfully napoli and Inter have had bad campaines, I just hope if we finish 3rd we can attract some quality that could see us get into the group stages and compete not just get beaten each game, cause as Napoli found out going for two comps is hard
on the 10th April, 2012 at 1:41pm
Average players? Marchetti, should be in the national team, Radu, Captain of Romania, Konko, one of the best full backs when fit, Lulic, outstanding buy of the season, Mauri, goal of the season contender, Ledesma, underated, the list goes on. People that slate Lazio obviously don't watch them very regularly, when you bother to look at our record against the big teams you'll see that we took 4 points of Milan, 6 off Roma, 4 off Napoli, not bad for an "average" team of lemons...
on the 10th April, 2012 at 1:40pm
It will be a disaster for Italian football if this team makes the CL. I can just imagine them being knockout out in the preliminaries to an unknown team. This team should be banned from Europe alongside Palermo as they are the biggest culprits for Italy's fall in the coefficient rankings.
on the 10th April, 2012 at 1:29pm
I'm a Napoli fan, but I have to say: For a team that aren't "very good", they're sure doing pretty darn well.
on the 10th April, 2012 at 1:20pm
With all due respect i HOPE lazio dont get the champs league i seriously doubt they would have any impact and they represent Serie A! having seen them in Serie A this season and the Europa u cant help but feel they would be punching above their weight. Napoli should try harder and give the Champs league another crack!

Forza Juve!
on the 10th April, 2012 at 1:16pm
Are you a romanista. We have more than two players
on the 10th April, 2012 at 1:12pm

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