Season preview: Lazio – Gunning for Europe once again

Last season: Lazio 2010-11 season review
The squad: Following their qualification for the Europa League, Lazio have added experience to the squad.
In attack, German international Miroslav Klose joins on a free contract from Bayern Munich, plus Djibril Cisse arrives from Panathinaikos. Only attacking midfielder Hernanes cracked the ten goal mark last season so they will be hoping one of the two can get on a scoring run. Sergio Floccari is a tireless worker, but he is expected to depart, with the club looking for a clinical scorer to lead from the front.
There is potency in the centre of midfield with new signing Lorik Cana adding bite to Cristian Ledesma’s craft, with Matuzalem and Christian Brocchi providing depth.
Stephan Lichsteiner has moved to Juventus but in come Abdoulay Konko and Marius Stankevicius, each with Serie A experience, who are adept when going forward as well as defensively.
In goal, the impressive Fernando Muslera has left for Galatasaray following a contract row and is replaced by €5 million man Federico Marchetti. The 2010 World Cup participant has not played in over a year after his own disputes with Cagliari and may be rusty to begin with.
Reja has kept the nucleus of the squad that impressed last season, adding players of international pedigree and experience. This will put them in good stead with the additional Europa League fixtures to contend with. He will look to get his big players firing, such as Hernanes and Mauro Zarate, who had an up-and-down campaign in 2010/11 on and off the field.
Coach: Edoardo Reja – Reja will continue with the 4-2-3-1 formation that took Lazio close to the Champions League. It is a system that will suit his squad, especially the midfield and fullbacks. Lazio were the equal second-best defensive unit last season and Reja, a conservative thinker, will want that to form the basis of the team.
The spine of the side will be vital, with Ledesma and Cana complimenting each other’s abilities as the two holding midfielders, while Hernanes plays in front of the duo and shoulders more of the creative responsibilities.
Konko at right-back and Stefan Radu on the left will have license to roam forward and add extra width to the attack, with cover coming from the midfield pair.
The attacking midfield trio will be the same as last season, with Zarate looking to cut in from the left-hand side or push forward and act as a second striker, while Stefano Mauri offers balance on the right. Hernanes is skilled at arriving late into dangerous areas and can work with the striker.
The lone striker will be an all-round player, who can work with his back to goal, bring the midfielders into the game and also work the channels to get into areas where the likes of Ledesma, Hernanes and Zarate will feed through balls.
Player to watch: Hernanes – An outstanding debut season in Serie A saw Hernanes score 11 times. This will lead to greater attention from opponents who will have a greater understanding of his ability but the Brazilian is good enough to lead from the front again, with his skill on the ball and positioning off it.
Prediction: Will once again be in the mix for a European spot, but the Champions League is beyond them.

Probable XI:
KONKO – Andre Dias – Biava – Radu
CANA – Ledesma
Mauri – Hernanes – Zarate
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