Seeking to consolidate their top-six place in Serie A with a third straight win, Lazio welcome mid-table Torino to Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.
Under pressure from clubs surrounding them in the standings – including Atalanta, Fiorentina and city rivals Roma – the Biancocelesti will take on an away side fresh from holding Scudetto contenders Milan to a goalless draw.
Continuing their push for European qualification, which incidentally has gained momentum since they exited the Europa League, successes against Sassuolo and Genoa since the international break have helped Lazio into the top six approaching the climax of their campaign.
Chronically inconsistent under the idiosyncratic reign of Maurizio Sarri, the capital club could now win three league matches in succession for the first time in a year, and have already posted four wins from five games over the past month.
Though their solitary defeat during that time came in the most important fixture of all for followers of the Aquile – a painful 3-0 defeat to Roma in the Derby della Capitale – they remain within two points of their capital city cousins, who occupy fifth spot.
As ever, captain and talisman Ciro Immobile has led the Lazio charge, shrugging off criticism of his performances for the national team to move onto 24 Serie A strikes for the season with a hat-trick against Genoa last week.
Indeed, largely thanks to their star striker’s efforts, the Biancocelesti boast the best goal difference during the second half of the season.
In that regard they are in credit by 12 goals, predominantly due to scoring 25 themselves – the second-best tally in the Italian top flight since the turn of the year. The latest proponents of ‘Sarriball’ are certainly doing something right, then, as they head towards the run-in.
Lazio and Torino may have drawn both of their last two Serie A encounters – including September’s reverse fixture, when Immobile inevitably popped up with a stoppage-time equaliser against his former club – but the Granata have won just once in their last 17 matches away to Saturday’s hosts.
With nine draws and seven wins for the Biancocelesti during that time, precedent is certainly against the Turin club from securing just a fourth Serie A win on the road this term, but they did manage to defy the odds in their most recent outing last weekend.
Ivan Juric’s well-organised outfit shut out a Milan side desperate for points to aid their title pursuit; picking up another draw to keep their grip on 11th place.
However, Torino have won only once in their last 10 Serie A matches – a 1-0 victory over rock-bottom Salernitana – drawing five and losing four. Not only that, but they have also failed to score more than once in any game throughout that spell.
Despite Andrea Belotti’s recent return from injury, the last time Juric’s men notched twice came as far back as January, against Sampdoria, and even the Italy striker’s winner against Salernitana was scored from the penalty spot. That victory over the southern strugglers ended an eight-game winless streak, but there is little prospect of breaking into the top half before the campaign concludes.
Hopes of hauling in 10th-placed Verona are slim for Juric’s side – who trail the Scaligeri by six points with one game still in hand – but with Brazilian defender Bremer to the fore, they are often a tough nut to crack for the top sides.
This season, Torino have conceded as few as 30 goals in their first 31 Serie A games for only the second time since the turn of the century, so should once again pose stubborn opposition on Saturday.
Lazio Serie A form:
Torino Serie A form:
We say: Lazio 1-1 Torino
For a second successive week, Torino can frustrate more illustrious counterparts, with a repeat of September’s 1-1 draw between the sides on the cards in Rome.
Though not always easy on the eye, the Granata can be obdurate opponents, and they are also overdue a goal from open play.