“There has been so much talk about our bad performance on Saturday,” bemoaned Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi before his side’s Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against Milan. Is there any wonder, however, given already-relegated Chievo dashed Lazio’s Champions League hopes with only their second win of the season? Now, as their second trip to San Siro in less than two weeks approaches, the Aquile will be hoping that they can turn around what has been a bad month which has included some very negative Press.
The Flying Donkeys visited the capital with few fans and even fewer hopes. Already doomed to Serie B next season, they had nothing to play for and yet shocked Lazio as they ran out 2-1 winners. The Romans were poor but shot themselves in the foot with two needless red cards for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto. The result compounded what has been a miserable month for Lazio, which started with defeat to SPAL before they drew at home to Sassuolo. Things didn’t pick up from there as they lost to Milan in an ill-tempered affair, before a win against Udinese offered some consolation. That was until the weekend - now Inzaghi has to pick his team up and try and finish the season on a high.
The semi-final against Milan is poised at 0-0, but the trip to San Siro will be a hostile one. In April’s League fixture, there had been a social-media row between Tiemoue Bakayoko and Francesco Acerbi. That rumbled onto the pitch with both teams clashing. After the game Acerbi offered his shirt to Bakayoko as a gesture of good will, yet the midfielder and teammate Franck Kessie went under the Curva Sud and paraded the Lazio shirt as if it were a trophy. This caused outrage and the pair were fined a total of €86,000 for their roles in the incident. Racist Lazio ultras were filmed singing, ‘this banana is for Bakayoko,’ sending the incident further into the disrepute and darkening Serie A’s image even more, in what has been just one of some high-profile racist incidents this term.
Both coaches want the focus to now be on the game and do not want any further incidents in tomorrow’s semi-final. Inzaghi is keen to turn his teams form around and when talking to Lazio style channel, said that his team need redemption in this fixture. While he was referring to the Chievo game in particular, one cannot think that he is also hoping for redemption for the previous Milan game and the teams form of late. He has a lot to lose, it seems, as ll Messaggero reported this week that Lazio President Claudio Lotito will review his Coach’s position should they fail to qualify for the Champions League or win the Coppa Italia. With Milan and then Fiorentina or Atalanta in the way for the Coppa and the fact that the club are four points off fourth place, these could be worrying times for Inzaghi.
The Biancocelesti’s remaining Serie A fixtures see them face Sampdoria, Atalanta, Cagliari and then Bologna, with the game against the side from Bergamo taking on extra importance. If successful in the semi-final, they could potentially finish the season with some dignity and a Coppa win and a top-six finish would not be seen as a failure. What is for certain is that this will be an entertaining affair as silverware is equally as important for the Rossoneri and Gennaro Gattuso is also under pressure to provide it.
For Lazio to get their redemption, they will have to focus simply with what is happening on the pitch and refrain from letting this match spill over. Inzaghi has done brilliant work in the capital, but his side’s recent run of form certainly isn’t enhancing his reputation. As he said in the week, they must be proactive, their key players must stand up and be counted and they must find a way to unlock Milan.