Juventus will be hoping to keep up with league leaders AC Milan when they lock horns with Lazio at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.
Lazio have a daunting challenge ahead as they welcome Juventus at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday. The Rome outfit are not enjoying the best of forms at the moment, having lost valuable points against Club Brugge and Zenit St.Petersburg that puts their chances for qualifying for the UEFA Champions League knockout round in great jeopardy.
Lazio did, however, secure two back-to-back wins in the Serie A, with their recent triumph coming in the 4-3 thriller against Torino last weekend. It was their third league win of the campaign, which is certainly not a good look for a side that finished only five points behind last season’s champions Juventus.
At the same time, it remains unlikely that Simone Inzaghi’s men will be eyeing anything more than a point against a Juventus side, who have been rejuvenated by the return of talismanic forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
Following their 2-0 defeat to FC Barcelona last week, the Italian champions have secured two back-to-back 4-1 wins, with their latest victory coming against Hungarian opponents Ferencvaros, in the UEFA Champions League.
Although things could be much trickier against a stronger opponent in Lazio, three points are imperative for Andrea Pirlo’s men as they look to maintain the pressure on league leaders AC Milan, who currently have a four-point lead heading into this weekend’s round of fixture.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides ahead of this highly-anticipated Serie A fixture on Sunday.
Team News & Tactics
Lazio were given a boost heading into this game as Luis Alberto tested negative for Covid-19. He will be in contention to feature in this encounter, though the same cannot be said for the injured duo of Senad Lulic and Silvio Proto.
Manuel Lazzari is also a doubt for the Juventus clash after testing positive for Covid-19, which means Mohamed Fares could once again get a chance at left wing-back slot, with Adam Marusic continuing on the opposite flank.
These two will provide a key role in aiding the defensive trifecta of Luiz Felipe, Francesco Acerbi and Wesley Hoedt, although Patric is another option.
It remains likely that Inzaghi’s men will adopt a similar tactic they used against Borussia Dortmund earlier in the campaign by offering very little space in between the lines. That means the three central midfielders in Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Marco Parolo and Luis Alberto could act narrowly and adjacently to the defensive backline.
Meanwhile, in the attacking department, there is confusion over the availability of Ciro Immobile, who tested positive for the Coronavirus, although Lazio have claimed that it was only a false positive. Lucas Leiva and Thomas Strakosha also face the same problems and could be ruled out for this weekend’s clash.
Immobile’s potential absence means Lazio will bank their hopes on the attacking duo of Joaquin Correa and Vedat Muriqi, although Felipe Caicedo is another option for coach Inzaghi.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Reina; Felipe, Acerbi, Hoedt; Marusic, Milinkovic-Savic, Parolo, Luis Alberto, Fares; Muriqi, Correa
Pirlo is hopeful regarding the potential involvement of two of his key defenders in Matthijs de Ligt and Giorgio Chiellini, though none of them will be given a start this weekend. Merih Demiral, therefore, could partner the experienced figure of Leonardo Bonucci at the heart of Juventus’ four-man backline.
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With Danilo stationed at left-back, due to the absence of the Alex Sandro, Juve don’t have too many options at right-back aside from Juan Cuadrado. However, the Brazilian has made a lot of progress in regards to his fitness and should be back during the final phase of this month.
As far as midfield is concerned, Pirlo could be tempted to shuffle his pack, which means Rodrigo Bentancur could get an opportunity, although Adrien Rabiot is tipped to retain his place in the side. There are other options available for the Juventus boss including US international Weston McKennie.
Elsewhere, Aaron Ramsey is a doubt after picking up a knock, which could pave the way for Dejan Kulusevski at right-wing while Federico Bernardeschi is expected to replace Federico Chiesa on the opposite flank. It will be interesting to see whether or not the ex-Fiorentina man regains his form, following a disastrous start to the campaign.
No changes are expected in the attacking unit, where Cristiano Ronaldo will join forces with former Real Madrid mate Alvaro Morata. Paulo Dybala, meanwhile, provides additional firepower from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Szczesny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, Demiral, Danilo; Kulusevski, Bentancur, Rabiot, Bernardeschi; Morata, Ronaldo
- The last draw between Lazio and Juventus in Serie A came back in January 2014; there have been 10 Bianconeri successes and two Biancocelesti wins in the most recent 12 fixtures.
- In their record run of nine Scudetti in a row – starting from 2011/12 – Juventus kept more clean sheets against Lazio than against any other teams in Serie A – 11 in 18 matches.
- After a streak of 14 home games without a win against Juventus in the top-flight, Lazio won the most recent one; the Biancocelesti could win two home matches in a row against Juve in Serie A for the first time since 2001.
- Lazio have conceded 12 goals in their first six Serie A matches this season for the first time since 1992/93.
- Juventus have scored 14 goals in the league this season; in the previous 12 Serie A campaigns, the Bianconeri netted 14+ goals after six games only twice.
Player to Watch
Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to the pitch has played a vital role in Juventus’ redemption over the past week, with the Portuguese sensation notably scoring a brace in the 4-1 win over Spezia last weekend. He also provided an assist in the midweek fixture against Ferencvaros, as he set up Morata’s second goal.
Pirlo will be hoping for similar output from his star player when Juventus meet Lazio on Sunday. The hosts are typically a strong defensive side, but they could find it difficult to keep Ronaldo at bay, especially when it comes to the physical and aerial aspect of the game.
The 35-year old’s dynamic movements could also help create space for his teammate Morata, although the story was quite different when these two individuals used to play together at Real Madrid.
Lazio 1-2 Juventus
Lazio’s fate could depend on the availability of Immobile, but defensively, it remains unlikely that they will be able to hold off the Juventus attack that has been boosted by the return of Ronaldo. We are expecting a narrow 2-1 victory for the Bianconeri.