Perhaps it’s because of the desperation for someone to seriously challenge Juventus, but Lazio have been getting everyone very excited in Italy.
Their brilliant recent run of 11 straight victories has seen them move to within six points of Juve with a game in hand, all while Inter’s form has stumbled a little. La Republica described Simone Inzaghi’s side as being like the T-Rex from Jurassic Park, coming out of the jungle as the ripples in the water make you aware that they’re coming, and they’re coming big.
As James Richardson suggested on this week’s European edition of the Totally Football Show, perhaps that means Antonio Conte is Donald Gennaro on the toilet, just waiting to be consumed.
They’re spearheaded by the remarkable Ciro Immobile, who notched his 21st, 22nd and 23rd goals of the season – meaning he has more goals than seven other Serie A clubs – in their 5-1 destruction of Sampdoria at the weekend, a result that has really caused people to sit up and take notice.
“Sampdoria had stabilised under Claudio Ranieri – only two teams in Europe’s top five leagues had kept more clean sheets than them, but Lazio ripped through them. Immobile got his first hat-trick of the season – he’s now on 23 goals from 19 games, it’s the best record that any Serie A striker has had since Angelino in the late 1960s, he looks on course to break Gonzalo Higuain’s single season scoring record, set in his last year at Napoli.
“There is this general feeling that they are the team that, maybe doesn’t have as much talent as Juventus or Inter, but they’re playing the best football, they’re making games look easier than Juve and Inter.
“It’s a big week for them: they’ve got Napoli in the cup and Roma at the weekend, and you could make a case for Lazio that in some respects they deserve to have more points than they already do, a) because they have this game in hand, against a good Verona side, and B) because they hit the woodwork four times in the last derby and deserved to win that one.
So what’s the answer to the big question – are they serious title contenders?
“I think they have to be taken seriously. They’re not in Europe, so they can focus on this. In contrast to other years Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic are content with where they are at the moment, they haven’t had their heads turned by moves – or failed moves – elsewhere. They’ve also got a depth they haven’t had in the past.
“The other thing is that we’ve talked about how many goals they’ve scored – goals, goals, goals, goals, goals – but they’ve got the second-best defence in the league too. They’re backing it up at both ends.”
How about Immobile though – perhaps not the most graceful of strikers, but boy he’s effective.
“Nine of his goals have been penalties, but he’s also been a great teammate, in that he’s given some of his colleagues a go from the spot. So he could’ve been even further ahead of Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo.”
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