BREAKING: Under Pressure Napoli Tenaciously Play Inform Lazio
While the hosts were denied a third win from four by conceding a last-gasp equaliser in midweek, their visitors were also held by lower-ranked opponents
Under pressure Napoli play inform Lazio
Both unbeaten since the start of the Serie A season, Lazio and their southern rivals Napoli clash at Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.
While the hosts were denied a third win from four by conceding a last-gasp equaliser in midweek, their visitors were also held by lower-ranked opponents; leaving the pair locked on eight points apiece in the standings.
Looking to build on last weekend’s success with a win against struggling Sampdoria on Wednesday, Lazio’s plans were scuppered in the dying stages at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, as they let two points slip against a side recently beaten 4-0 by Salernitana.
Indeed, Samp had just one point and no goals on the board until Manolo Gabbiadini’s 92nd-minute strike cancelled out Ciro Immobile’s first-half opener; securing a 1-1 draw.
Despite returning to Rome with the sense of an opportunity lost, Lazio can still reflect on a positive start to the season, in which they took four points from their first two fixtures before defeating one of their main rivals for a top-four finish.
The Aquile staged their own late show on their most recent appearance at the Olimpico, when Spanish pair Luis Alberto and Pedro found the net in a 3-1 comeback win over last term’s runners-up Inter.
Having posted consecutive home wins at the start of a season for the first time in seven years, Maurizio Sarri’s men are back in their capital city stronghold on Saturday, and will meet a side they finished just two places – but some 15 points – behind in May.
Securing fifth in Sarri’s first year, while embedding his particular style of play, Lazio booked a return to the Europa League, in which they kick off their group stage campaign at home to Feyenoord next week. First, though, the wily tactician will aim to get the better of his former club.
Not only will Sarri meet old friends this weekend, his opposite number Luciano Spalletti will also be stirred by fond memories, as the Napoli coach returns to a venue where he spent two largely successful spells with Roma.
However, his current team’s failure to win either of their last two matches will surely rankle, as after being held goalless by Fiorentina last weekend, the Azzurri were pegged back by promoted Lecce on Wednesday.
Having seen Alex Meret save a penalty, and then secured the lead through an Eljif Elmas strike, within minutes they were hauled back onto level terms by Lorenzo Colombo’s howitzer from well outside the area.
Despite dominating the ball – and fielding several recently-acquired attacking stars – they could not find a winner, so had to settle for a record of two wins and two draws from their opening league fixtures.
Like Lazio – who they beat both home and away last term – Napoli will get their European campaign under way next week – in their case, hosting Liverpool on the first day of the Champions League group stage.
They first return to the road, though, and head for the Eternal City having scored in 15 of their last 16 top-flight away matches – including two from now-departed duo Lorenzo Insigne and Fabian Ruiz to claim a 2-1 victory at the Olimpico in February.
Starting an important few days in domestic and European competition, Maurizio Sarri resisted the temptation to make many changes against Sampdoria in midweek, but could consider tinkering with his side on Saturday.
Pedro is pushing to replace Felipe Anderson in the Lazio front three, while summer signing Nicolo Casale hopes to usurp Patric in central defence and make his first start; Marcos Antonio, Matias Vecino and Toma Basic are candidates to come into the midfield.
Sarri has an almost fully-fit squad to choose from, but captain Ciro Immobile is likely to lead the line up front once again, after scoring his second goal of the season last time out.
Luciano Spalletti did shuffle his pack somewhat ahead of the draw with Lecce, but Leo Ostigard and Mathias Olivera are both set to drop out of the back four; making way for the return of Amir Rrahmani and Mario Rui.
After clumsily conceding a penalty, Tanguy Ndombele is also vulnerable to demotion, with Stanislav Lobotka and Piotr Zielinski hoping to feature in the visitors’ midfield – Diego Demme is still sidelined with a broken foot.
Up front, Victor Osimhen should start – following weeks of speculation about his future – and summer signing Giovanni Simeone will be available to feature from the bench.