Two weeks after extending their unbeaten Serie A record to seven games, Inter Milan visit Stadio Olimpico, where they meet an inconsistent Lazio side.
While the champions – under ex-Biancocelesti coach Simone Inzaghi – won at Sassuolo last time out to sit third in the table, their hosts were surprisingly beaten by Bologna; continuing their hit-and-miss start to the campaign
Victory over both bitter rivals Roma in the Derby della Capitale and then Lokomotiv Moscow in the Europa League preceded Serie A’s seventh round for Lazio, apparently setting them up well for a third straight win, at mid-table Bologna.
However, the Aquile returned home from Stadio Renato Dall’Ara with nothing to show for their efforts, having been handed a chastening 3-0 defeat by the Emilian side, who flew out of the gates to lead by two in the 17th minute.
Despite having more than an hour left to salvage the game, Lazio – who are also yet to keep a clean sheet in the league – could only muster a paltry four shots on target in all, to leave them languishing sixth in the standings, already adrift of the unbeaten top three.
Though coach Maurizio Sarri grumbled darkly about being made to play at Sunday lunchtime, not long after their Thursday night Europa League engagement, the Biancocelesti’s resurgence – after a previous four-match winless run – has been stopped in its tracks.
Ahead of Inzaghi’s Inter coming to the capital, though, Lazio are unbeaten in their last 16 home matches in the Italian top flight (winning 14), which represents their longest such streak since 2002, when they reached 22 games undefeated on home soil.
While Sarri’s side have been able to retain the Olimpico’s status as a Roman fortress this season, his highly-scrutinised tactics will now be put to the test versus his immediate predecessor and the current Scudetto-holders, against whom the Aquile have won only two of their last 10 Serie A matches.
While the previously popular Inzaghi returns to his former home in rival colours, sure to receive a hostile reception from the jilted Lazio ultras, the Inter coach can travel to the capital assured that he made the right move.
Having succeeded Scudetto-winning boss Antonio Conte amid a financial crisis at the Milan giants, many observers questioned his ability to maintain such high standards after a special season in 2020-21.
Before the international break pressed pause on their progress, Inter played out a thrilling, incident-packed draw with Lombardy rivals Atalanta, before coming from behind to beat Sassuolo 2-1 thanks to goals from both members of their new-look front pair – Lautaro Martinez and Edin Dzeko.
That continued a free-scoring start to Inzaghi’s reign, which has seen the Nerazzurri score twice or more in each of their first seven matches of a Serie A season for the first time in their long and glorious history. Furthermore, despite firing consecutive blanks in the Champions League, they have registered 22 goals in domestic competition so far this term: their best tally at this stage since 1950.
As the club announced annual losses of over £200m earlier this month, they will apparently need to raise money by selling off further assets in the mid-season transfer window, following the summer exits of Achraf Hakimi and Romelu Lukaku. Therefore, Inzaghi may need to strike while the iron is hot, as he could see his talented squad diminished by January’s end.
With that in mind, he will hope to use his inside knowledge of Lazio – gleaned during 197 games in charge of the Roman club – to help Inter pick up maximum points and stay in touch with leaders Napoli and city rivals Milan.
Lazio Serie A form:
Lazio form (all competitions):
Inter Milan Serie A form:
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We say: Lazio 1-1 Inter Milan
Though Lazio’s defensive deficiencies have undermined their consistency this term – and Inter are seemingly able to score at will – the home side always take inspiration from performing at the Olimpico, and can therefore share the spoils on Saturday.
The champions are likely to be frustrated in their efforts to claw back ground on the two teams above them, ahead of a big week in which they face both Sheriff and Juventus back home in Milan.