It is unusual for an Italian club to honour the Europa League as well as Lazio have done this season. Coach Vladmir Petkovic put his all into guiding the team as far as possible. The quarter-final defeat to Fenerbahçe is where it ended for the Biancocelesti, but the country should be proud of what was achieved by the Roman club. The 3-1 aggregate defeat didn’t quite tell the whole of the two-legged story.
Losing 2-0 in the opening encounter meant that Lazio had a mountain to climb in the return leg. With the first match ending in controversial circumstances that I won’t bore you with again, an empty Stadio Olimpico didn’t give the team that final push they needed to overcome the two goal deposit.
Petkovic said after the match that “We must not cry over things we can’t change. The lads gave their all to overturn the negative result in Istanbul and I am happy with them. Now we will rest for a day, then prepare for Juventus on Monday night, as I believe Lazio can still finish in the top three.”
Having embarked on a European adventure this term, the foot had been taken off the gas in regard to league form. Now that the Europa League campaign has ended for Lazio, it must see the team make one final push for that third and final Champions League spot, which is not yet out of reach.
Monday’s draw with city rivals Roma was a disappointing result according to many fans. For a while now Lazio have been superior to their city counterparts and felt had Hernanes scored from the spot at 1-0, it would have been game over, and four derby victories in a row.
Without delving too much into the result, there were many good factors for the coach could take out of the match, the return of Miroslav Klose being the main talking point. The German looked a threat in attack, although not being 100% match fit, his presence was felt during his time on the pitch.
Antonio Candreva had saw his form dip in recent months, but the Italian international was a shining light throughout the match, and his creativity on the wing will be vital with the return of target man Klose for the remainder of the season.
Two other mentions must go to Ogenyi Onazi and Lorik Cana. The pair have impressively stepped into the team when needed, and quietly gone about their business. Cana is an experienced journeyman who can add a lot to any side, but he has adapted to a central defender role for the coach, and has proved to be a solid replacement for Andre Dias on numerous occasions this term.
Ogenyi Onazi is just 20 years of age, yet looks like he is maturing much faster. Lazio have unearthed an absolute gem in the Nigerian international, who already has an African cup of nation’s winners medal to his name.
Lazio have a strong squad to see out the remainder of the season, starting with Juventus at the Stadio Olimpico on Monday evening. Having dumped the Bianconeri out of the Coppa Italia already this season, Petkovic will be confident of overcoming the league leaders again. It will be the fourth time the teams have met this term, and the old lady are yet to beat Lazio.
Monday’s fiery encounter with Roma meant that Giuseppe Biava, Senad Lulic and Stefan Radu are suspended, while Cristian Brocchi, Andre Dias and Bruno Pereirinha are out through injury. Petkovic will likely stick with Ogenyi Onazi in the middle of the park, while Marius Stankevicius should stand in for Pereirinha.
Just seven points seperate Lazio from Milan in third, not yet impossible. Having the likes of Miroslav Klose back in action, and Antonio Candreva looking to impress once again, the Biancoceleste have it all to play for in the remaining fixtures. Let’s not forget that Lazio already have a Coppa Italia Final to look forward to on May 26th, so an impressive first season under Petkovic could result in silverware after-all.
Follow Ben Lally on Twitter: @Lazio_UK