Preview: Lazio vs. Fiorentina
After sweeping into Serie A’s top three with a brilliant win in midweek, Lazio look to start the second half of the season in similar style on Sunday, when they welcome Fiorentina to Stadio Olimpico.
While Maurizio Sarri’s men thumped reigning champions Milan 4-0 on Tuesday, the Viola slipped into the bottom half of the table following a second successive defeat.
Making the most of the Scudetto-holders’ recent loss of confidence, Lazio moved within one point of midweek victims Milan by taking a fourth-minute lead and then roaring off into the distance over the final hour in Rome.
Stand-in captain Sergej Milinkovic-Savic deputised for the injured Ciro Immobile in the penalty area as well as taking the armband, and the midfielder’s early goal set the tone for a ruthless display in which the Biancocelesti produced some razor-sharp football.
Having equalled a longstanding club record in the process – Lazio last kept 11 clean sheets in the first half of the season back in 1973, when they went on to lift the title – they will now fancy their chances of surpassing last season’s fifth-placed finish.
Going one better this year would secure a return to the Champions League, and the capital club’s hopes in that regard were boosted further by top-four rivals Juventus being docked 15 points last week.
Also set to meet Juve in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals and CFR Cluj in the Europa Conference League’s knockout stage early next month, Sarri’s side are surely eyeing up some silverware in the coming months too, but Serie A duty first awaits.
Lazio have not only won six of their last seven league matches against Fiorentina, keeping clean sheets in the most recent three, but an average of two goals per game at the Olimpico this term sets them up as favourites to prevail on Sunday.
Beaten 4-0 by this week’s opponents when the teams last met in October, Fiorentina will have some idea how Milan suffered so badly at the hands of the Biancocelesti – and the Viola have also lost each of their last four away games against them.
Vincenzo Italiano’s side arrive in the capital having lost their last two league matches without scoring a goal, and given Lazio’s defensive solidity this term, they could be in line to lose three in a row without finding the net for the first time since 2019.
Following recent defeats to Roma and Torino – the latter of whom they reconvene with in the Coppa quarter-finals next Wednesday – Fiorentina sat 11th in the standings, with no sign of their inconsistency being resolved any time soon.
Only relegation candidates Verona and Sampdoria have registered a larger negative points difference than the Viola compared to the 2022-23 campaign’s first half – now 23, versus 32 a year ago – and an inability to score regularly weighs heavily on the Tuscans’ hopes of catching a distant top six.
Like Lazio, they remain Europa Conference League challengers, and a two-legged contest with Braga is scheduled for next month, so perhaps knockout competition will be the focus of Italiano’s attention if his side’s Serie A form does not improve soon.
Lazio Serie A form:
Lazio form (all competitions):
Fiorentina Serie A form:
Fiorentina form (all competitions):
We say: Lazio 2-0 Fiorentina
As Fiorentina have really struggled to score on the road and Lazio are among Italy’s most secure sides defensively, there can only be one outcome when they meet this weekend. The capital city club are on fluent form, with ‘Sarrisimo’ fully embedded in their fabric, and have suitably grand plans for the rest of 2023.
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