Just as they appeared to be turning a corner, Lazio were thrusted into chaos.
Simone Inzaghi’s side had endured a difficult start to the season, winning just one of their four opening fixtures. Then - and against all expectations - they cruised to a 3-1 victory against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, following that up with a solid 2-1 win over Bologna upon their return to domestic action.
It seemed as if Lazio were laying down the foundations for gathering some winning consistency, but alas, it wasn’t to be. Just one day before their Champions League fixture against Club Brugge, multiple members of the squad were struck down with coronavirus, meaning that just 13 first-team players were available for the game.
With the likes of Ciro Immobile, Luis Alberto, and Manuel Lazzari absent, Inzaghi had to field a weakened - but still strong - starting line-up, and fill his bench with kids from the Primavera team. This situation was made worse by the fact that most of Lazio’s players would be playing their fourth game in just 11 days, meaning they were likely to get very worn out as the game went on.
That’s exactly what happened. Lazio gave a solid, if not entirely convincing, performance in the first-half, and would’ve been a goal up going into half-time if not for Patric giving away a penalty in the 42nd minute. In the second-half, however, Lazio’s increasingly exhausted players had to battle just to hold on to a draw, and that’s precisely what they did until the final whistle.
There isn’t a single Biancocelesti supporter who wasn’t incredibly proud of their team after that second-half performance. Football fans don’t always want results - especially under these circumstances - just as long as their players give everything for the shirt, and there wasn’t a single Lazio player who didn’t do that.
The usual suspects stood out. The ever-reliable Francesco Acerbi and Wesley Hoedt were a wall at the back, using any means possible to nullify Club Brugge’s many attacks. Hoedt, in particular, has impressed since his return to Rome in the summer, winning over the many sceptics he previously had. The Dutchman plays as if he has a point to prove; he’s alert, aggressive, and his work-rate has been exceptional.
Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro has continued to impress, too. He didn’t arrive in the summer to too much fanfare, but has quickly become a cult favourite, winning the affection of Lazio fans with his goal against Borussia Dortmund and the fact that he, clearly, absolutely, loves playing for the team. Joaquin Correa and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic - the latter of the whom had only recently returned from a knock - also turned in typically excellent performances.
Despite Lazio’s tremendous show of spirit amid difficult circumstances, it’s clear they can’t play another game like this. Especially now Patric and Mohamed Fares are said to be showing coronavirus symptoms, too. They need at least ten players to test positive for coronavirus in order to request postponement of a fixture, and, in spite of the fact they’ve probably crossed that threshold, it is understood Lazio do not want to do this for when the play Torino on Sunday.
The remaining first-teamers will not be at peak condition, and it is not right for such young players - who would almost certainly have to come on as substitutes - to make their debuts in these circumstances. They are being set up for a battering and this could harm their confidence going forward. Lazio, however, have recovered a few of those who missed the mid-week Champions League clash.
Ciro Immobile, Thomas Strakosha, Lucas Leiva and Andreas Pereira are reportedly eligible to play Torino. Clearly, not the ideal situation. It will be tough to go out there, trying to pull off important results. Inzaghi’s men will need an extra effort to bring some points to Rome but Lazio’s season seems to have taken the appearance of a labyrinth. Hopefully, the Torino clash will be used to find a way out.