2008/09 – Given the performance of the 2007/2008 season, Lazio’s year went relatively well – improving the league position and bringing home their first trophy in four years. Finishing in 10th, it is obvious from the season statistics that Lazio failed to draw enough games – losing as many as Lecce is certainly cause for concern. However, an impressive run in the Coppa Italia – beating Milan and Juventus along the way – went some way towards restoring some club pride and ensured the Biancocelesti would have a shot at European football this season.
2009/10 – Lazio have already got off to a great start this season by defeating Inter in the Supercoppa Italiana. Against a full strength Nerazzurri side, Lazio overcame the odds and have stated their intentions for the season with a 2-1 victory. The next important step will be dismissing Elfsborg in the Europa League Play-Off round to ensure their participation in the tournament. New Head Coach Davide Ballardini has got off to a winning start and this will assure the fans of his credentials, but the season will be judged on the final league position as the club have struggled since 2006/2007. Ballardini will be very keen to find a balance between European and domestic football as this may ultimately decide the club’s successes in both.
Transfer campaign – Lazio have succeeded in bolstering their squad ready for the European ties ahead. The big transfers have involved securing the places of two loan stars from last season and this is very important for the club with Mauro Zarate and Matuzalem both vital to the team’s future. Rapid winger Eliseu is an intriguing purchase and definitely worth the gamble at such a low price.
Albano Bizzarri – Catania – Free
Mauro Zárate – Al-Sadd – £17.25m
Eliseu – Málaga – £850k
Matuzalem – Real Zaragoza – £5.5m
Julio Ricardo Cruz – Inter – Free
Roberto Baronio – Brescia – end of loan
Lionel Scaloni – Malaga – end of loan
Ricardo Bonetto – Livorno – end of loan
Stephen Makinwa – Chievo – end of loan
Fabio Firmani – Al Wasl – end of loan
Lucas Correa – Pro Patria – end of loan
Luciano Zauri – Fiorentina – end of loan
Guglielmo Stendardo – Lecce – end of loan
David Rozenhal – Hamburg – £4.2m
Juan Pablo Carrizo – Real Zaragoza – Loan
Luciano Zauri – Sampdoria – Loan
Ivan Artipoli – Pescina – Loan
Alessandro Tuia – Monza – Loan
First XI – The strongest team will not look far off of the side that beat Inter in the Supercoppa. Eliseu may take time to settle but he could very quickly find himself in the starting line-up. Cristian Brocchi, Roberto Baronio and Stefano Mauri add depth to the midfield and offer a high degree of competition for those who start. Upfront, Julio Cruz will certainly look to push for a place as well as Tommaso Rocchi – aiming to honour his vow to reach 100 goals for the club.
2 Lichsteiner – 87 Diakitè – 13 Siviglia – 3 Kolarov
00 Eliseu – 24 Ledesma – 8 Matuzalem – 17 Foggia
19 Pandev – 10 Zarate
The Coach – Delio Rossi had a mixed record during his time as Lazio Head Coach. Highlights of a UEFA Cup place and Champions League qualifying spot are quickly forgotten when the club’s disappointing 12th and 10th positions over the last two seasons are considered. However, ending on a high with the Coppa Italia puts the pressure on new Coach, Ballardini. Having impressed at Palermo last season, Ballardini was a constant target of speculation and eventually put pen-to-paper with the Biancocelesti. Like at Palermo, there will be media attention on the new boss which may be detrimental but the squad is in place to achieve good things if Ballardini can deliver.
Team/reliable player – Now entering his sixth season with the Rome outfit, Sebastiano Siviglia has grown as a player at the club to the point where he is a certainty at the back and often the team’s captain. The Italian will turn 37 years old this season but will still remain the rock in defence and quite often the stumbling block for opponent attacks. His experience is a vital asset to the club and is a terrific advantage in the dressing room.
Creative force – English football fans will be aware of the talent Mauro Zarate possesses from his brief spell at Birmingham a couple of seasons ago. Since then, the Argentinian has impressed at Lazio and earned himself a big money move. Scintillating form – including a goal in the cup final – meant that the biggest clubs were all looking at the youngster by the end of the season and the Biancocelesti had to pay a little extra for the new fans’ favourite. If Zarate can provide a more consistent season then there is no reason why he cannot move further up the goal scoring charts whilst still providing the flair and creativity to assist others.
Youth prospect – Lazio have a large amount of players that have already broken through into the squad which is a tremendous position for the club to stand. Next to push into the team could be Czech striker Libor Kozak. With one substitute appearance towards the tail-end of last season, Kozak has already shown he is starting to develop the ability to break into the squad, and this season – with the heavy amount of fixtures – Kozak may well get his chance in cup competitions. Tall and strong, the Under-21 international had an impressive record at his Czech club before leaving for Lazio and could well be a essential source of goals that the club might not have expected this year.
The fixtures – As a club hoping to progress, Lazio should be looking forward to the big games rather than fearing them. The club are lucky enough to have the toughest fixtures spaced apart which means they will often be able to gain a little momentum going into the games and will be able to afford a less pressurised contest. The key for Lazio will be to keep the performances up and ensure they gain the maximum points possible in the less problematic fixtures.
Home grown players – Lazio have 16 Italian players who could potentially take the field this year, making up 43% of their squad. Also a massive positive for the club, 12 or more of these players could make up the starting XI without the team being particularly disadvantaged. If the potential rules were implemented Lazio would not struggle but could potentially need a couple more quality Italians to bolster their options.
Predictions – With the additional depth the club has added over the summer, they are in the ideal position to attack their competitions on all fronts. First of all, the Rome club will definitely look for an improvement in league position. If Lazio can make themselves more difficult to beat, they should be able to push for Europa League qualification through their Serie A position. In Europe, the club should at least expect to progress past the group stage and hopefully push a little further should the ties go their way. Defending a cup is always difficult but the Biancocelesti may well forsake the domestic tournaments in order to concentrate on league and Europe. As a minimum, the club should expect to build on last season and impose themselves on the clubs higher up the division.