It all looked so promising in July. With the Milan clubs faltering big time despite a change in management and Rafa Benitez’s Napoli failing to reach their full potential, the stage was set for Lazio to push on for a Champions League spot. Sparked on by the wonderful skills of Antonio Candreva and Felipe Anderson and the predatorial instincts of veteran Miroslav Klose (13 goals from 21 starts), the biancocelesti managed to achieve a top-three finish for the first time in 14 years and the first time since Serie A expanded to 20 teams. The only negative side of an over-achieving campaign? Finishing one point below eternal rival AS Roma in second place, thus finishing one point away from automatic qualification to the holy grail that is Champions’ League football.
It’s in the qualifying round were things all went wrong. And it started so well, too! A Keita strike at the Stadio Olimpico against Bayer Leverkusen gave the Roman side a slender advantage as they took on the Germans at the BayArena. Bayer, however, easily brushed aside their opponents in a convincing 3-0 victory, with the biancocelesti also having their center back Mauricio sent off.
Just 18 days prior, Stefano Pioli’s side had lost their Supercoppa final against Juventus. And how did they end a disappointing August? With a 4-0 loss in the league against Chievo Verona, a drubbing that was followed three weeks later by a 5-0 loss to Napoli.
Lazio have been severely hampered by injuries on all fronts, but that result at the Sao Paolo was simply unacceptable. They were ill-disciplined at the back and bereft of ideas in attack, with target man Matri and Stefano Mauri behind him hardly screaming “creativity.”
Nevertheless, since that embarrassment in Naples, Pioli’s side has responded admirably with four wins on the trot in all competitions. It’s really no surprise that this upturn in fortune coincided with the return to full fitness of box-to-box midfielder Lucas Biglia, who started three of the aforementioned four matches.
Currently, Lazio find themselves in third place, one point above Roma, having won five games and lost two. In the Europa League, they’re odds-on favorites to qualify from their group, having taken four points from their first two encounters.
Despite their significant setbacks, Pioli managed to pull his side together, with the return of key players from injuries also playing a big part. Their away fixture on Sunday against Sassuolo provides an ideal platform to continue this purple patch.