There was a time, not that long ago, when the Scudetto made its home in Rome. Granted, it was only a two-year stretch, but Lazio and Roma reigned supreme at the dawn of the 21st century, winning consecutive titles, and looked set to usher in a new era, one in which the capital dictated Italian football, Hunger Games style.
Well, we know what happened since then. Roma rattled off a series of second place finishes, eight to be exact, while Lazio managed a few third place finishes but has generally been on the upper half of the table. But, by and large, Roma and Lazio haven't been title contenders at the same time in many years.
So, as much as it pains me to do so, we must turn our attention to Lazio who, you may recall, only finished one point behind Roma last season.
Last Season: 3rd place, 69 pts, +33 goal differential
Manager: Stefano Pioli
Key Additions: Wesley Hoedt, Sergej Milinković-Savić, Ravel Morrison, Ricardo Kishna
Key Departures: None
As you can see, the tale of Lazio's summer market was one of retention. With a solid foundation of Antonio Candreva, Lucas Biglia, Felipe Anderson and Miroslav Klose, Lazio chose to tighten the seams by bringing on some young talent, some Dutch talent. Lazio tapped the Netherlands for the intriguing Hoedt and the incredibly young but incredibly talented Kishna.
Lazio was top three in goals scored and goals conceded last season, and with an additional year of continuity, they should be major players this season.
Style of Play
The statistics speak for themselves; Lazio is an incredibly balanced squad. Pioli's 4-3-3 was among the league's most prolific, most accurate, and most efficient attacks last season, landing among the leaders in shot accuracy, total shots, chances created and goals inside the area. Defensively speaking, they led the league in fewest shots conceded per match, while tackling and intercepting passes at a better clip than any team in the league.
Lazio is a possession-based squad, one that is adept at attacking down the wings, while creating and shooting with remarkable efficiency, while their defense is incredibly resolute and unrelenting. Like I said, balanced.
Despite the Premiership League overtures for Lucas Biglia, Felipe Anderson is perhaps the biggest threat on this squad. Anderson scored 10 goals and contributed 7 assists in his debut season, playing literally everywhere in attack.
Between Anderson and Candreva, not many clubs have that sort of dynamism in their attack; they're both incredible talents who make the players around them far better and Anderson has barely scratched the surface of his talents.
Biggest Question Mark
Their strikers. While Candreva and Anderson are salaciously talented, the men leading Lazio's line, Klose and Stefano Mauri (if he's allowed back) are each over the age of 35. And while Klose is a marvel of efficiency, if you can somehow contain Lazio's wingmen, Klose isn't the type to create chances on his own.
It's a small question mark, though. Lazio is legit.
Scudetto Threat Factor: 7/10
With so few question marks and with the entire cast coming back, Lazio is poised to take a step forward this season. Candreva, Anderson and Biglia are as talented a trio you'll find in the league, but stack them up against Juve's riches and they still fall a bit short.
Roma Threat Factor: 9/10
The only thing stopping the perfect ten here is our inborn hatred of Lazio. However, if we're honest and face facts, Roma was an Mbiwa goal away from losing second place to Lazio last season. More than any other side, Lazio should rival Roma all season long, which should make for some epic, epic derbies.
The tension in the Eternal City this season will be thick, no doubt.