Still in the thick of a battle for European qualification, Lazio travel to mid-table Spezia on Saturday evening seeking a fourth win from four against them in Serie A.
Beaten by Milan’s late goal last weekend, Maurizio Sarri’s side have taken just a point from their last two matches and are clinging onto sixth place in the standings, while their hosts have all but secured their stay in the top flight.
Denied at the death last Sunday, crestfallen Lazio were defeated for the third time by Milan this season, as the league leaders struck in stoppage time to render Ciro Immobile’s fourth-minute opener meaningless.
Only similar setbacks for fellow top-six contenders Atalanta and Fiorentina allowed the Biancocelesti to retain their place above both in the table, while arch-rivals Roma remain two above them in fifth.
Representing only their third Serie A loss as hosts this term, that 2-1 reverse leaves Lazio in an almighty scrap for a Europa League spot, with Sampdoria, Juventus and Verona being their final three opponents of an inconsistent campaign.
Only of late has the Aquile’s away form improved, after being the main factor behind their inability to contend for the top four, and they have won on four of their last six road trips in the top flight – as many as from their previous 16.
Perhaps their most straightforward remaining engagement, at least on paper, Lazio will expect to continue that trend in La Spezia this weekend, having won each of their three Serie A matches against their latest opponents.
Indeed, a 6-1 victory for the Biancocelesti in August’s reverse fixture – when Capocannoniere leader Immobile bolstered his tally with a first-half hat-trick – indicates their supremacy since Spezia were promoted two years ago.
Having lost 11 times and conceded at a rate of over two goals per game away from home this season, Spezia will no doubt be delighted to return to the familiar environs of Stadio Alberto Picco, following a 2-1 defeat at Torino last weekend.
Two goals down heading towards the game’s conclusion, the Aquilotti’s consolation – a 97th-minute strike by Rey Manaj – means that 18% of their goals in Serie A this term have been netted in second-half injury time; the highest percentage of any side.
They are certainly persistent, then, but late goals alone have not been enough for Thiago Motta’s side to pull comprehensively clear of the bottom three.
With a cushion of eight points between them and 17th-placed Genoa, the Ligurian outfit should still preserve their top-flight status for a further year, which would complete the club’s objective when the former Barcelona midfielder took charge last summer, following Vincenzo Italiano’s departure for Fiorentina.
A meagre tally of six goals from their last eight outings will trouble Motta though, ahead of Lazio’s arrival, as their visitors are more than adept in the attacking department and will most likely find the net themselves.
Spezia Serie A form:
Lazio Serie A form:
We say: Spezia 1-3 Lazio
Along with Sampdoria, one of two teams not to have drawn any Serie A home matches in 2022, Spezia would surely take a point on this occasion.
However, Lazio have other ideas, and a powerful mixture of determination to bounce back from the Milan loss and their greater need for the points will ensure they go in all guns blazing on Saturday night.