Lazio vs Napoli
Serie A’s in-form team meets one of the league’s out-of-sorts big guns, when Lazio take on Napoli at the Stadio Olimpico in Italy’s match of the weekend.
I’m sure most SBOTOP Serie A fans particularly outside Rome would agree that Lazio are exceeding expectations so far this season, while the opposite can be said for Napoli.
Simone Inzaghi has led I Biancoceleste to nine successive league wins and to the edge of the title race, while his opposite number Gennaro Gattuso is still finding his feet in Naples after the December sacking of Carlo Ancelotti.
The most recent Lazio vs Napoli results give Gattuso’s troops some cause for optimism as they are unbeaten against Lazio in five games. But in a white hot atmosphere at the Stadio Olimpico, they will need to be at their very best and their toughest.
I think Lazio will have too much for them.
Romans on a roll
Lazio have been in irresistible form during their winning run by beating all comers, including the very best.
Inzaghi’s team has beaten Juventus twice in December, once in the league and once in the Italian Super Cup, and both times by a convincing 3-1 score line.
Ciro Immobile, with 19 goals, is streets ahead of any other striker in the league. He is leading with the excellent Romelu Lukaku five behind and the legend Cristiano Ronaldo a further goal back. And Immobile has made more assists than those two rivals together at five to three.
He bagged two in Lazio’s win at Brescia which made it nine league victories in a row. And that leaves I Biancoceleste six points behind joint leaders Inter and Juventus but with a game in hand.
Immobile’s goals could take Lazio to the brink of a stunning success, and he has plenty of support in the shape of talented 25-year-old Argentine striker Joaquin Correa, while Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is an imposing presence in Lazio’s midfield.
The six-foot-three Serb has scored three goals and made four assists and runs the middle of the park with his strong tackle and outstanding vision.
Lazio will give you a chance though having failed to keep a clean sheet in five matches, and they have only had two shut-outs in their run of nine league wins.
Napoli missing Kalidou
If the Lazio defence could be just a little tighter, then Napoli have bigger worries at the back, having conceded nine goals in the last five league games.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo is currently alongside Kostas Manolas at the centre of defence following the injury to Kalidou Koulibaly. The 30-year-old Senegal star limped off during Gli Azzurri’s shock defeat to Parma before Christmas and is unlikely to return any time soon.
Gli Azzurri were outclassed in a 3-1 defeat at home to Inter Milan on Monday night as Lorenzo Insigne was at his best, and he crashed the bar with an excellent free-kick at a point in the game when Napoli could still have earned a result.
Arkadiusz Milik scored his seventh goal of the season as Napoli briefly threatened a comeback against Antonio Conte’s side, but goal keeper Alex Meret was a busy boy particularly in the first half.
This is still a good team though. Napoli made their way through to the Champions League Round of 16 fairly comfortably, and now a tie with co-favourites Barcelona awaits. They just need to find form in the league to make an assault on the top four places.
These two teams have very comparable records. Lazio are twice winners of Serie A, the last time in 2000, and won the Coppa Italia for the seventh time in 2019 with a 2-0 final victory over Atalanta.
Napoli have also won Serie A twice, the last time in 1990, in the days of Diego Maradona while winning the Coppa five times.
Last season, Napoli finished second while Lazio ended up eighth. This time around, the roles are reversed with Lazio in the title hunt and Napoli currently eighth.
In the 41 games played between these two teams since 1993, Napoli has the edge by winning 18 to Lazio’s 14 and there have been nine draws. Lazio hasn’t won any of the last five meetings.
Napoli won here 2-1 at the beginning of the 2018/19 season and completed the double in Naples with another 2-1 win, courtesy of goals from Milik and Jose Callejon while Immobile replied for Lazio who also had defender Francesco Ascerbi sent off.
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