Lazio face the tough task of balancing Europa League and Serie A football this season, writes Tom Scholes
Coming off the back of a wonderful season that saw them finish fourth in Serie A and runners-up in the Coppa Italia, Lazio have a hard task to replicate their fourth-placed finish given that they will be competing in the Europa League and that other teams around them have strengthened over the summer.
Simone Inzaghi’s side surprised a few people with how well they did last year given their rocky pre-season preparation, with Marcelo Bielsa resigning before he had officially taken over. Inzaghi did extremely well to make Lazio a well-drilled side with a solid defence and a free-flowing attack, which also meant that it would be a tough ask of them to keep every single key player they had.
Club captain Lucas Biglia departed the club after five years to join the new-look Milan, whilst Keita Balde Diao’s status kept everyone guessing throughout the summer. This left Lazio with two players that would be tough to replace, but bringing in Lucas Leiva from Liverpool for €5m could prove to be a shrewd signing and a good replacement for Biglia.
New captain Senad Lulic has been speaking about how mature this current crop of players are, helped out in the dressing room by the likes of Stefan Radu, Marco Parolo and Ciro Immobile. A year together has made this team stronger, despite the lack of signings and losing important elements. Their pre-season results have suggested that this team aren’t lacking anything, with their impressive 3-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen being the standout result.
Due to the majority of key players staying, Inzaghi will continue with his 3-5-2 formation that worked so well last campaign. With Inzaghi signing a new contract in the summer, it gives off the impression that Lazio are looking to build stability at the club, and this summer is vital to reaching that goal.
As a result of last season’s success, Lazio will also be seeded in the Europa League draw, which is where this season will be measured on. All of those good performances and hard work will be for nothing if they fail to impress in Europe and give a good account of themselves. Maybe winning the competition is out of the question, but a quarter-final place would be considered an achievement.
With many of their rivals chopping and changing in the transfer window, Lazio’s inactivity could actually be a blessing in disguise. The mood around the squad is one of optimism. The squad knows that they mustn’t make the same mistakes of previous years under Stefano Pioli and Vladimir Petkovic, where they failed to capitalize on good seasons.
Given the competitiveness of Serie A this year, Lazio will need to be on top of their game from the very start, but all signs point towards Inzaghi’s side having another good campaign.
Given the relative stability on the pitch and not losing too many key players, Lazio will be looking to repeat last year’s success of a Europa League finish and a good run in the Coppa Italia. However, I can see this side reaching the last 16 of the Europa League while pushing for a top five Serie A spot.
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