Lazio welcome Inter to the Stadio Olimpico on Friday night for what should be an intriguing and mouthwatering encounter. Neither Club is in good form at present, yet a win for either would add further spice to the race for the Serie A crown.
The Biancocelesti began the season extremely well, topping the table for a spell. But Edy Reja’s team have stumbled in recent weeks, collecting only five points from the last 15 available. Defeat against Roma in the fiercely competitive derby match has seemingly shaken the Aquile and they are yet to fully recover from that setback.
While it could be argued that Lazio have over-performed so far this season, it is certainly the opposite for the Nerazzurri. The current holders of the Serie A crown and treble winners last season have struggled to adapt since Jose Mourinho’s defection to Real Madrid.
Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was given the unenviable task of replacing Mourinho and, thus far, Inter have performed well below expectations. It always takes time for a Coach and a new team to gel together, as beliefs and ideas do take patience to implement. And in fairness, a series of injuries has not helped the Spaniard in his first few months in charge of the Milan giants either.
As Lazio were stuttering to a home draw with Catania last weekend, Inter were recording a comfortable 5-2 win against Parma, so Benitez’s team may just have started in their bid to turn the corner and display the type of form we know they are capable of. Both Lazio and Inter are chasing league leaders Milan, and a victory for either of the two teams will certainly help in their pursuit of the Rossoneri.
Obviously there is no doubt the Nerazzurri need it more as they came into this campaign under a weight of expectation and thus far have failed to deliver. The Aquile, on the other hand, can continue to play relatively pressure-free. They are exceeding expectations at the moment, but that will not stop them wanting to get one over an Inter side they have failed to beat in 13 attempts.
Edy Reja appears to have a fully fit squad at his disposal but is expected to shake things up following last weekend’s stalemate. There are rumours Tommaso Rocchi will start the match, possibly alongside Mauro Zarate in attack. The Argentine’s performance was a highlight of last weekend’s draw with Catania, and he deserves to retain his place. Benitez, despite his team’s injury problems beginning to ease, still heads to the capital without Zarate’s fellow countryman Diego Milito.
The Lazio Coach seems to be in confident mood heading into this clash, and stressed the importance of his team putting a good sequence of results together.
“A win against Inter would open up an important run, it would also bring enthusiasm to the fans and ourselves,” Reja commented.
He does believe his team will have to play the perfect game if they are to beat Inter, but the prize is a return to the summit of Serie A – certainly motivation enough, if any was needed. Brazilian midfielder Hernanes, who has been a little subdued in recent weeks, has come out fighting before Lazio and Inter take to the field.
“Our mentality is clear, we must think one game at a time and try to stay at the top for as long as possible,” the Biancocelesti playmaker vowed.
So there is considerable belief in the Aquile camp heading into this clash. Whilst Reja and his team acknowledge the qualities Inter possess, they do not seem afraid of them. A positive attitude is imperative, regardless, as anything else is likely to point to a defeat, perhaps even a hefty one.
The Nerazzurri are normally there or thereabouts in Italian football, and they have dominated Serie A for a number of years now. However, Lazio must believe they possess the right to be at the enjoyable end of Serie A, and the right to challenge the established order in Italian football.
It will be a fascinating game under the Friday evening floodlights at the Olimpico, and hopefully a special night in Rome. You can rest assured that the Biancocelesti tifosi will be up for this one. Let’s just hope Edy Reja and his players are as well – they have certainly talked a good game so far.