Last weekend’s victory against Catania was a huge boost for Lazio coach Vladmir Petkovic. Not only did it end a dreadful run of league results, but it catapulted the Biancocelesti back into winning form ahead of the Derby della Capitale on Monday.
Thursday’s trip to Fenerbahce was always going to be a tough trip with the Derby in mind. Being the only unbeaten team in the competition meant that pressure was on Lazio to get something out of the match. Despite a poor match, not from the team, but the referee, Lazio face an uphill task of overcoming the 2-0 defeat next Thursday in Rome.
It cannot be justifiable to criticise the coach for any of this year’s tumbling form. An extended run in the Europa League coupled with a Coppa Italia Final has been partly to blame for the relegation form shown in Serie A since the turn of the year. For the neutral fan, many are surprised by Lazio’s turn in form.
Recent decline in the league is not just down to playing in three competitons, but also the size of the injury list. The players missing of late have been key players required for success. Abdoulay Konko, Stefano Mauri and Miroslav Klose have all been heavy blows dealt to the team.
It is widely documented that Lazio’s squad isn’t as deep as it should be, and failure to reach the Champions League again will certainly prompt Claudio Lotito to spend well this summer. Lazio are one of the biggest clubs in Italy, with one of the biggest turnovers in the league, despite not owning its own stadium. Coming close for a third season running will spark controversy amongst the fans, and leave Lotito with no choice but to add some steel in the next mercato.
In my own opinion, Lazio are only a couple of big purchases away from maintaining a top three stance on a consistent basis. The core of the squad is without doubt one of the best on the peninsula, and has proven that on many occasions it can compete with the best teams in the League.
Lazio’s defence has been a problem for me this term more than any other position. It somehow seems that Petkovic is still trying to find his preferred back line. Michael Ciani had a bright start, but frailties are apparent. Lorik Cana is naturally a defensive midfielder, and the age of Giuseppe Biava is not doing him many favours fitness wise.
Despite still being placed in a high position, some of the defensive errors created throughout this season are laughable, and have no place at a club like Lazio. Andre Dias has shown his worth over the past few seasons, but his time is up. Constant lack of discipline and age should make this his last season as a starter for the Aquile in my opinion.
The summer is vitally important for Lazio to place an experienced, potential champion into the back-line. It seems like a lifetime ago since Alessandro Nesta was at the heart of the defence. Lazio need a new leader at the back in the mould of Nesta, if they are to move forward.
With the consistency of Stefan Radu, and the flare of Abdoulay Konko, a top quality central defender in the summer would certainly see Lazio boast one of the best defences in the league, playing in front of one of the best goalkeepers in the league in Federico Marchetti.
This season has been a rollercoaster ride so far, and it’s about to get even bumpier before the season is out. Without mentioning the Derby della Capitale on Monday evening, the team need to regroup quickly for the visit of Fenerbahce on Thursday, followed by the visit of leaders Juventus the following Monday.
Petkovic will be hoping he can welcome back some players to see the team through the hectic, final stages of the season. Whilst making the top three is a huge ask for Lazio, it is by no means impossible. If Miroslav Klose can return to scoring form, there can be no limits as to what Lazio can achieve.
The form book is out of the window for Mondays Derby della Capitale. Stefano Mauri and Miroslav Klose look likely to start, and this is a huge boost for Petkovic. Lazio have won the last three meetings and are hoping to make it a fourth.
Follow Ben Lally on Twitter @Lazio_UK