Football Italiano’s 500@five – Lazio in the mire

Lazio’s defeat to Catania at home on Sunday condemned the Biancocelesti to the relegation zone for the first time in 25 years. They have won just four times this entire season and things seem to be slipping out of control.

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Not many Aquilotti fans would have expected their beloved team to be battling for survival considering their excellent start to the season. But now Coach Davide Ballardini is looking increasingly likely to get the sack as his team has been on their worst run for over half a century. The team is also second from last on the scoring sheets this term as they have found the net only 16 times. This form is a far cry from the team’s early season exploits when they even claimed the Supercoppa Italiana after beating Inter.

Lazio’s attack was rendered toothless ever since Goran Pandev ran into contractual disputes with the club in the summer. Argentine Julio Cruz who came in from Inter has struggled with injuries and hence failed to settle into the team. Captain Tommaso Rocchi who was on his way downhill already last term has been unable to fill the void left by Pandev getting frozen out. As for Mauro Zarate, he is too involved in his verbal jousts with Francesco Totti to actually perform on the field. Recently acquired Sergio Floccari seems to be the only outlet for any Aquile goals.

But it is not just the attack that is misfiring – the midfield is also hugely culpable for the paucity of goals. The team lacked any player who could serve as the link between the second and the third part of the field. There is no fantastista in the squad and that is leading to no creation of goal-scoring opportunities. Thomas Hitzlsperger who we rated as one of the best transfers in the winter, has been brought in to do exactly that. He is a natural left-sided player but can be deployed through the centre as well. Stefano Mauri who was frequently used as the trequartista by former Coach Delio Rossi has failed to create the kind of relationship he shared with Pandev and Rocchi with the current strikers.

The one area where Lazio have actually been decent is the defence. Aleksandar Kolarov is being courted by all the top sides in the peninsula following his sensational showings on the left flank. He is currently the Biancocelesti’s biggest threat and it was vital that President Claudio Lotito kept hold of the Serbian in January. Swiss international Stephan Lichtsteiner has also continued with his solid performances at right-back. He is not as attacking as Kolarov but he is certainly an integral part of the team. Lazio’s goalkeeping woes also look to have finally eased as Fernando Muslera has come into his own this season. The keeper who has been in and out of the squad over the past few years has cemented his position in the team over the last two years.

Edy Reja is now widely expected to take over at the Roman club, with recent news reports suggesting he has freed himself from his contract at Croatian club Hajduk Split. Reja who was ironically sacked from Napoli last year after they lost to Lazio will be looking to set things right immediately for the Aquilotti. The upcoming fixtures are none too easy as they travel away to Parma and Palermo before taking on Fiorentina at home. These fixtures who could well turn out to be crucial for the side as with only 15 games remaining in the season, time maybe running out soon for the Biancocelesti.

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