Continuing their quest for a return to European competition, Lazio welcome relegation-threatened Venezia to Stadio Olimpico on Monday evening.
Trailing city rivals Roma and sitting seventh in the Serie A standings, the Biancocelesti are seeking to build on a comprehensive victory last week, while their Venetian visitors are mired in the bottom three after nine matches without a win.
Since the end of November, only Juventus, Inter and Milan have accrued more points in Serie A than Lazio’s 25, but the capital club remain outside the European qualification places with just 10 games to go.
While head coach Maurizio Sarri is renowned for his expansive approach, he has built much of that progress on an improving defensive record, and following a 3-0 win at Cagliari last week, his side have kept five clean sheets since the turn of the year – only Real Sociedad have managed more throughout the top five European leagues.
Leading the fight at the other end of the pitch, star striker Ciro Immobile opened the scoring in Sardinia last Saturday, as the Aquile soared to success against a recently revived home team – earning just a sixth away win of the campaign from 15 attempts.
Under both Sarri and his immediate predecessor Simone Inzaghi, Lazio have generally preferred to take on all-comers on Roman soil – winning 17 of 19 at the Olimpico in Serie A prior to a recent downturn in fortunes.
Ahead of Venezia’s visit, the Biancocelesti have won only two of their last seven home league games, so will be keen to re-establish their previous air of supremacy against an ailing away side.
With elimination from both the Coppa Italia and Europa League punctuating their largely positive league form, all that Lazio have left to fight for is a top-six finish, so they will not want to let the division’s 18th-placed team deny them maximum points.
As if Venezia’s current form – which sees them just below the dotted line denoting the drop zone – was not enough for Paolo Zanetti to deal with on Monday, the weight of history is against his team too.
lso beaten 3-1 at Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo in December’s reverse fixture, the Veneto club have never before won in their 10 away games against Lazio in the top flight – losing eight times in the process.
Therefore, a much-needed victory seems all the more improbable, given an awful run of results since the end of November. During that time, the Lagunari have picked up the fewest points in Serie A; sending them tumbling down the table into their current predicament.
Following last week’s 4-1 home thumping by in-form Sassuolo, they have posted just seven points from their last 14 games, and with nine losses coming during that spell, confidence is at a particularly low ebb.
Though Venezia have won only three away matches in the current campaign, throughout their modest Serie A history, only in 1942-43 did they manage more away wins in a single season, and they could now match that mark with a surprise success in the capital.
The odds are stacked against them, though, as after conceding seven goals in their last two games, the Arancioneroverdi have leaked 51 in total this season – hardly a recipe for success against Immobile and company.
Lazio Serie A form:
Lazio form (all competitions):
Venezia Serie A form:
We say: Lazio 2-0 Venezia
Even if the home side have failed to break through after an hour of trying, they should eventually succeed, as Lazio have scored the most goals in the last 30 minutes of games in Serie A this season, with 22 to date.
Meanwhile, only Hellas Verona have conceded more than Venezia (coincidentally, also 22) in the same time period, which indicates a soft underbelly that could ultimately see them demoted from the top flight – only a year after completing their comeback.