Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Sunday, March 23, 2014; 19:45 Hrs GMT
Lazio and Milan are two sides not enjoying the greatest support from their fans presently and it won’t be unfair to suggest they’ve had it coming. While Lazio have seen an upswing of sorts in their performances from recent weeks, Milan have gone from bad to worse. The ultras in the capital have observed a boycott during the last couple of home games for the Biancocelesti and little seems to have changed in their stand despite the side having bagged three wins off their last four league appearances. Edi Reja however has ensured the on-field action and that alone continues to be the focal point for his men and he’d see a visit from Milan as a wonderful opportunity to add to the recently found momentum and thus keep the likes of Inter and Parma on their toes for the final Europa League spot.
Milan have quite bluntly put, nothing tangible left to look forward to for these final ten games from the season. However, Clarence Seedorf might see this as an opportunity to roll out his tactical ideas and identify the exact areas to be corrected for the next season and during the mercato before that. Milan ultras haven’t exactly been kind on the players of late and anything but a win in the capital is only going to make things more difficult.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Ever since making a comeback to the club, Edi Reja has restored the conservative order and Lazio are pretty visibly a much more compact and pragmatic side in comparison to the impression they left under Petkovic. Reja’s 4-3-3 concentrates on better positional play and the central idea of denying space to the opposition. They aren’t a side with the tallest possession stats to boast of but rather employ an approach that is best suited to get the job done.
Antonio Candreva makes a return after serving a one game suspension and he should be a crucial addition to the three pronged attacking line. Miroslav Klose will continue to lead the line from the centre and he has a reason or two to feel confident to add to his scoring tally considering the defensive shenanigans so characteristic of Milan this season. Klose is potentially a huge aerial threat too and unless Milan have a properly chalked out defensive plan, which you might want to believe they won’t, to mark Klose out of the game completely, he isn’t likely to let them escape unpunished.
Lazio midfield hasn’t been known for the greatest ball retention and the creative spark too has taken a blow ever since the departure of Hernanes, although the Brazilian had not been at his impervious best for some time before the parting. Club vice-captain Christian Ledesma will once again take charge of the midfield slotting into the central position accompanied by Alvaro Gonzalez and Lucas Biglia on either side. Ball retention hasn’t been a strong suit for Milan either and hence this game is very likely to be resorted to the long ball tactics from the midfield.
Fullbacks Konko and Radu might need to keep their attacking ambitions in good check as Milan do pose some threat from time to time through the flanks and although their attack hasn’t been delivering consistently, their potency cannot be undermined at all. In Marchetti, Lazio boast of one of the better custodians in the league and like it has happened with Milan a number of times in the past, he could prove to be the difference here too.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-3-3]: Marchetti; Konko, Biava, Dias, Radu; Gonzalez, Ledesma, Biglia; Candreva, Klose, Keita
Clarence Seedorf has so far made his tactical priorities very clear but has dropped little signs of his ability to adapt. There are clearly several missing points in the current setup and it’s not the hardest job in the world to locate them. Milan are very comprehensively outrun in the middle of the park by opponents who outnumber them in that area and the two man midfield often proves short of resources to provide an adequate cover for the defence. He continues to believe in the attacking prowess of his side but the isolation of midfield from the build-up process isn’t helping the matters at all.
Skipper Riccardo Montolivo isn’t expected to make it to the starting XI owing to an injury. While fans are tempted to see the manager try something out of the box by fielding Cristante into the position, Seedorf might take the safer route and rather start with Muntari. De Jong will certainly occupy his regular slot and the midfield thus won’t be fielding a single player of creative acumen even on paper.
Mario Balotelli is easily the best Milan have got in terms of potential and natural talent and in the current tactical blueprint, there’s no place for Pazzini to start alongside. Seedorf has been seen altering the tactics a little in the second half particularly while chasing a game and the two do demonstrated a good understanding between them. But no sooner are the two expected to start together and form a striking pairing. Kaka should continue to behold the manager’s attention and start ahead of Keisuke Honda in his favoured central attacking midfield position. Adel Taarabt has been thoroughly impressive in his short stay at the club so far and he appears to be a real attacking threat with his menacing runs from the wing. Andrea Poli should flank Kaka on the right.
Seedorf is yet to find the best possible fullback partnership and has been trying several permutations and combinations but his persistence with Emanuelson borders on the lines of unreasonable optimism. Rami, Zapata and De Sciglio should complete the defensive line while the red card against Udinese keeps Abbiati unavailable for this trip.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-2-3-1]: Amelia; De Sciglio, Rami, Zapata, Emanuelson; De Jong, Muntari; Poli, Kaka, Taarabt; Balotelli
Player To Watch Out For
Often labelled a volcano of talent that lacks that final spark to explode, Balotelli is now facing the heat from every possible corner. Curva Sud aren’t exactly an easy lot to please but it’s about time Super Mario delivered a performance that matches the hype that surrounds him. Numbers do not talk so badly of him this season but his impact has clearly dipped from the previous season and in order to reclaim the confidence, it’s vital to deliver in these games. A goal early on from Milan’s centre forward might put the hosts on the back foot and make it difficult for them to mount a comeback.
Lazio 3-1 Milan
It shouldn’t actually be a very different affair for Milan from what we’ve been witnessing week after week. Milan take an eternity before finding any rhythm and the damage has almost inevitably been done by then. In their quest to restore some balance to the game, they might succeed in getting their name to the scoresheet but that shouldn’t serve any greater purpose.