Nobody at Viola Nation is a Lazio expert (heck, we probably don’t qualify as Fiorentina experts), so figuring out what to expect from tomorrow’s matchup is very difficult for us. Fortunately, we were able to turn back to Laziali founder and connoisseur of all things Biancocelesti Steven Moore, who took some time to chat with us about the upcoming festivities. He’s a top guy and also very sharp, so follow him on Twitter, dang it.
Viola Nation: That must have been an awfully unpleasant game to watch for Lazio fans, but there was also a lot to take in from it. Do the Aquile still look like the same side they were when the season entered hiatus? It’s obviously hard to draw too many conclusions from one match after a 3-month layoff, but what stood out to you that’s new? Any tactical wrinkles?
Steven Moore: It was definitely a disappointing match, especially after going up 2-0 and starting the game very well. However, the decline and loss was expected. Lazio went into this match as the underdogs despite their 21-match unbeaten streak and position in the table. Several key players were out due to injury and when you have a bench that is average at best, it will always come back to haunt you; this is why it is so vital for the club to invest in proper talent this summer - the years of only taking chances on ‘inexperienced youth’ or ‘flops’ are over and Claudio Lotito must be willing to bolster the squad, especially with a return to the UEFA Champions League on the cards for the 2020/21 season. With regards to matching the performances they had before the break, I believe that their drive and desire remains; however, it will definitely be difficult to rediscover that form, especially with key members of the starting eleven missing… While Sergej Milinkovic-Savic seemed ready to go against Atalanta, it seemed as if everyone else was not - they looked very rusty, which although understandable, must change if the team as a whole is to experience success in the remainder of the season.
VN: It’s a pretty brutal schedule for your guys, who now have to travel all the way back to Rome and then get ready to host Fiorentina in just 3 days. Between the summer heat, exhaustion from so little time between games, and the general lack of fitness after coronavirus madness, what kind of squad rotation do you expect from Simone Inzaghi? Seems like a lot of people have been discussing Lazio’s squad depth of late; do you think there’s enough quality up and down the bench to keep everyone fresh for this sprint of games?
SM: Absolutely, every match from here until the end of the season will be a battle. But that is what was expected, before and after COVID-19 put a halt to the season. Everyone is in the same boat, so the ‘lack of fitness’ and ‘tiredness’ excuses are not enough to explain losses. For Simone Inzaghi and Lazio, they will have to be weary - if any other key players (Ciro Immobile, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Luis Alberto, Francesco Acerbi) pick up an injury, the results will worsen as there is not enough quality in the bench to replace them. For this reason, I expect you can see multiple changes ahead of every match.
VN: Ciro Immobile looks like he could be the first 30-goal scorer since Gonzalo Higuaín in 2015-2016. What’s worrying for Fiorentina fans is that he didn’t get one against Atalanta; as he hasn’t been held scoreless for 3 straight matches this season, it looks like he’s due. Were you Giuseppe Iachini, how would you try to slow him down? Does he have weaknesses? Is he human?
SM: Ciro Immobile is one of my all-time favourite players. His work ethic, passion, and desire to score goals (and win) are always prevalent. However, without a team behind him, he is very ineffective, especially when playing as a sole striker. If Giuseppe Iachini and Fiorentina are to prevent him from scoring goals, they need to mark the creators, both Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. Marking Immobile himself isn’t efficient enough, especially as he is very good at finding space and making room for himself to have an effort on goal.
VN: With Fiorentina missing Federico Chiesa, Martín Cáceres, and Iachini due to suspension (the former on pretty clear BS and the latter for blasphemy, which, uh, thanks Italy), are there any Viola players you’re worried about facing? Any matchups which make you a bit anxious, or are you pretty well confident across the pitch?
SM: ’m a big fan of Fiorentina’s squad this season; I feel as if the arrival of Rocco Commisso has really changed the vibe around the team, with his investments being calculated both financially and tactically. Personally, I am worried about La Viola’s attack; Franck Ribery, Patrick Cutrone, and Dusan Vlahovic. All three are very good in their own way, and as Lazio’s backline has been - and continues to be - what worries me the most about the Biancocelesti. I feel as if they could be exposed, especially considering Francesco Acerbi is the only strong defender that Lazio have right now that can last the full 90 minutes.
VN: Veering rather off topic from the upcoming festivities, the loss to la Dea has opened up a 4 point gap between Lazio and Juventus at the top of the table. With 11 games left (including one against the Juvenuts), what percent chance do you give the Biancocelesti to pass them up? For my money, Lazio’s got the easier schedule, and it sure would be nice to see somebody knock those jerks off the top spot.
SM: Apart from Lazio defeating AS Roma, there would be no greater feeling than to see Lazio win the Scudetto this season and end Juventus’ (too long of a) streak of winning the league… However, as I have said on Twitter following Lazio’s loss to Atalanta, the chances of this happening are very slim… Although I want Lazio to win, it’s just hard to imagine. Juventus find ways to win, even in matches where they play worse than their opponent; they have an entire bench ready to give their all to acquire more minutes and a few injuries does not impact them that much. On the contrary, Lazio does not have the necessary squad depth to challenge Juventus all the way to the end, and one injury can result in detrimental consequences.
VN: As always, we’ll wrap up with your predictions for the match. What’s the scoreline, who gets the goals, and what’s the general shape of the game?
SM: In the last round of Serie A, the Biancocelesti lost and the Viola drew, while both teams were expecting all three points. This is why I feel as if Lazio-Fiorentina will be a close match; Simone Inzaghi’s side will want to quickly recover from the loss, while Giuseppe Iachini’s side want to finish in a higher position that they are currently in. For the scoreline, I will say 2-1 in favour of Lazio; Ciro Immobile, Felipe Caicedo, and Dusan Vlahovic scoring the goals.
Huge thank you to Steven, who, having already put up with my pestering before, can now be officially deemed a Friend of the Blog. I’d say best of luck, but let’s be honest here: if either of these teams needs any help, it’s the Viola. Either way, go read up the Laziali’s preview for the view from the other side of the aisle, and, again, a massive grazie to Steven.