STADIO OLIMPICO (Rome) – Lazio are loving the big occasions this season. At the halfway stage, only Napoli have a better record against their fellow big-seven sides than the Romans.
Maurizio Sarri’s side have now beaten Inter, AS Roma, Atalanta and AC Milan to take 12 points from 18 from their most important games – remembering that head-to-head is now the Serie A tiebreaker.
One man who has been key to that success is Felipe Anderson, who hasn’t spared a single one of those opponents and scored against each of them.
The Brazilian is enjoying a renaissance in his second Lazio spell and he was terrific again playing as a false nine in the absence of the injured Ciro Immobile on Tuesday, scoring in a third consecutive Serie A game for the first time since 2014/15.
Sarri’s tactical tweaks
Lazio’s inability to bring in a natural no.9 as a backup to Immobile has frustrated the fans for years, but Anderson has deputised impressively when called on and Sarri deserves credit for tweaking his tactics accordingly rather than simply switching the two players and cracking on.
“One of the aspects we worked on was how to take advantage of the spaces that open up between the defenders thanks to the movement of Felipe Anderson” Sarri explained after the Milan game.
Anderson has done so well recently that there has even been some online debate about whether Lazio are better with or without Immobile – a four-time capocannoniere winner and the club’s all-time top scorer.
The key question now is how the team build on such a landmark result and performance.
Lazio have proven themselves capable of taking big scalps for years, but they’ve regularly then tripped up in less glamorous fixtures, most recently by losing to Lecce and drawing with Empoli.
“This is a peculiar place, after the Lecce match we were the worst team, today we’re the best. We need to maintain a balance,” Sarri said.
He’s absolutely right – but history shows that’s easier said than done.
With Coppa Italia and Conference League commitments coming up on top of a gruelling Serie A schedule, Lazio need to remember that the points on offer against Fiorentina on Sunday are the same as they were against the champions.
Only by seizing all three will the efforts of Tuesday have been truly worthwhile.