Club Focus – Lazio – Crunch time comes for Reja in the giddy heights of Serie A

Lazio welcome Brescia to the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday afternoon, with confidence high within the camp. As things stand after 5 rounds of Serie A action, i Biancocelesti sit joint top of the table, alongside current Scudetto Holders Inter. Whether Eddy Reja and his troops are simply enjoying a prolonged Indian summer at the high end of Serie A, or are at the beginning of something even greater, remains to be seen. He should certainly be sending his team into battle on Sunday fancying their chances of continuing what has so far been – by all accounts – an impressive streak. Giuseppe Iachini, however, will be heading to the capital confident in the abilities of his team. The newly promoted Biancoazzurri are, along with Lazio, revelling in a fantastic start to the new campaign. Despite watching his team blow their opportunity to go top of Serie A last week after suffering a disappointing 1-2 reversal at Bari, Iachini can look back at an impressive defeat of Lazio’s bitter rivals Roma, if he needs inspiration heading into this fixture.

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Eddy Reja, who knows all about Brescia, having had a spell in charge there during the mid 90s, will again look to shuffle his pack on Sunday. He has spoken this week of how he believes that a healthy competition is good for the players and how he expects all of his players to accept his choices throughout the season. Lazio seem to be blessed with both numbers and quality in attack this time around, and this is exactly the position likely to give the former Napoli tactician the biggest selection headache. Mercurial Argentine Mauro Zarate was superb during last week’s win at Chievo, grabbing the crucial deciding goal to ensure Lazio left the Bentegodi with all 3 points. Even so, he is expected to drop to the bench on Sunday to make way for club captain Tommaso Rocchi. We finally heard from the man himself, Zarate, this week after a spate of rumours about the Argentine, concerning both his form and his future. He has defended his playing style, following some criticism about being too selfish and not being a team player. “It’s true that before I never passed the ball, but I never pass it now either” , he quipped, only half-jokingly, one may presume. It certainly was a humorous response to all the flak taken recently from the forward, which only goes to show just how much confidence and self-belief Zarate possesses.
Whilst it can be argued that leaving Zarate out of the match, considering his display in Verona, is a somewhat strange decision for Reja to make, it is also worth remembering how he reserved the same treatment to Rocchi during that very game, despite his impressive performances in the Fiorentina and Milan fixtures. The Coach seems to favour mixing things up week in week out at the moment, and although it cannot be doubted results are going his way, his decisions will likely come under fire if things were to start going seriously wrong. Only then will people feel entitled to quiz his shuffling of the pack. Rocchi is expected to be joined in attack by Sergio Floccari, a player who has experienced quite a shaky start to the season while the job of linking the midfield with the forwards has been allotted once again to the Brazilian Hernanes. The player, recently signed from Sao Paolo in Brazil, has played almost as an orthodox Trequartista up until now and his remarkable skills may well have been a key factor behind Lazio’s greatly improved abilities. His range of passing and his eye for a shot are real positives for the team: indeed, one might even venture to suggest that the question of how long the Biancocelesti will remain at the top spot of the table cannot but be inextricably linked to the consistency of his performance level.
Doubtless, it will be a challenging game for Lazio on Sunday, with the boys from the Rigamonti providing the Romans with a stern test. Brescia’s current condition should give Reja food for thought, but no amount of self-analysis should come to erode his confidence in his Lazio team. Shuffling the pack has worked for him so far and he will certainly hope this continues on Sunday. Besides, the possibility of knocking Inter off the top spot – should the Nerazzuri take a tumble against Juventus – is in itself as much of an incentive as one may wish to get.
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