Prior to the first Derby della Capitale, Lazio writer and podcaster Jerry Mancini was kind enough to give us an insider’s look at the Biancocelesti. A lot has changed since that 1-1 draw at the Olimpico back on match day two—Lazio has proven to be one of the surprise packages of the Serie A season thus far—so we brought Jerry back to fill us in on what’s happening with Roma’s eternal rivals.
Lazio has been on an absolute tear. What has been the key to the lengthy winning streak?
Jerry Mancini: It seems as if the team has learned a lot from last year. Inzaghi has managed his bench much better this season. Aside from the match against SPAL, the Italian deserves a lot of credit. There’s a foundation which seems to have been built and its really nice to see. The players play for each other and the squad has a great bond. It’s as if they’re a family who will fight for each other until the end.
Also, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto have both rebounded from last season and look like the players who had career years in 2017/18. Immobile continues to be the driving force upfront for Lazio, breaking records this season while showing how important he is to the Biancocelesti.
What’s different about this year’s Lazio and teams of past years?
JM: As I mentioned earlier in the first question, Lazio have created a special bond, which is encouraging to see. Last year when they were down 1-0 in a match, the fight to come from behind lacked. The team showed little desire and it cost them many points. Injuries did hurt Lazio last year as well. Alberto, Savic, and Immobile each were hurt and that didn’t help. The depth of the squad was thin and playing in three competitions hurt the team more than it benefited it.
This season the club is focused solely on qualifying for the Champions League. They did give a good effort in the Coppa Italia, however, luck was not on their side in that competition. Also the team wants to play for Inzaghi. They have scored many goals late into their matches, such as guys like Caicedo. To see Inzaghi run into the celebrations with his players speaks a lot of how much he cares about his players, as well as, how much the players are willing to fight for their manager.
What do you think is the biggest difference between Ciro Immobile’s success with Lazio and his lack of goals with the national team?
JM: I truly feel it’s the formation that doesn’t benefit him when it comes to the Euro games. He’s used to playing in a 3-5-2 and needs open space in the middle of the field. Players such as Alberto and Savic both compliment Immobile in the way he likes to play off the pass and run with the ball.
This summer, I feel that he is going to prove many wrong. With the Azzurri he plays in a 4-3-3 which seems as if it doesn’t suit his style of play. It will be interesting to see what Roberto Mancini decides to come Euro 2020.
The good thing is that in his past four games with Italy, the striker has scored 3 goals and provided 2 assists. This is really good and may be a sign of good things to come, as it should boost his confidence.
Out of Lazio’s big players (Immobile, Luis Alberto, SMS and Acerbi) who is the most indispensable if Lazio are to continue winning?
JM: Of everyone, it may just be Francesco Acerbi. While I’d be scared if any of the others were to go down, the backline is not very strong to begin with. Any time lost for Acerbi could really hurt Lazio’s chances of winning this season. The back three in most matches has been Luiz Felipe, Stefan Radu and Acerbi.
Patric has done a good job this season, but aside from that we don’t have many options. Bastos doesn’t look the same as last year, while Radu is aging and looks as if he can’t play a full 90 minutes. Meanwhile, Dennis Vavro is struggling to adjust to the league and needs more time. It will be interesting to see if Lazio addresses this area in the January transfer window.
What do you see as Lazio’s weaknesses? How can Roma exploit them?
JM: Lazio’s main weakness could be its backline. Felipe at times could be vulnerable, as he showed earlier this week against Napoli. His ability to carry the ball up and join the attack is very good, but at times he over commits when defending, which has resulted in the opposition scoring or having chances. Radu seems to have lost a step and he’s not getting younger. I like when Patric is in the lineup because I feel he provides a safer option. Meanwhile, Acerbi has been a rock on the back end.
Do you think Lazio have enough to win the Scudetto? If not, what would get them over the top?
JM: Yes, I do think they have enough to win a Scudetto. The Biancocelesti have an advantage compared to other teams such as Juventus, Inter Milan and Roma by no longer playing in the Europa League and Coppa Italia. Juve and Inter are still playing in three competitions, while Roma still find themselves in two.
One has to wonder how these teams will manage down the stretch, as the amount of games played starts to pile up. If you don’t have depth, it could hurt you in the long run. Something which did hurt Lazio last season. Players such as Alberto, Correa, Savic, Immobile and Acerbi should be managed well and this could help Lazio in the long run.
I still won’t count out Juventus as they have managed to win the title for 8 straight seasons. Their squad is deep, as you could field two good starting 11 lineups. Meanwhile, this past Sunday against Lecce, Inter showed why I feel they are a step behind. With the amount of competitions they have and the injuries in the midfield, they will start to drop off and struggle to win some games. At least we finally have a race for the Scudetto and not one team runaway.
How do you see the playing out on Sunday? Prediction?
JM: This match is going to be an exciting affair on Sunday. Each team always brings its best when it comes to the derby. I feel Lazio will come out on top in this match. With Luis Alberto and Joaquin Correa both expected to be back in the line up, it will really give a boost to the Biancocelesti. They are playing with confidence—winners of 11 straight. And they have the possibility of making it 12 and surpassing Roma for the second most consecutive wins in Serie A.
Immobile has 23 goals this season. And while he didn’t score again Napoli due to some back luck, in his recent Serie A matches, he showed what he can do on a good day. Roma has been good this season, as well. They have battled through injuries. Dzeko has rewarded Roma after receiving a new contract this off-season. Meanwhile, Chris Smalling has done really well in the back. With the injury to Zaniolo, I feel it may make it harder for Roma to score goals. I have Lazio winning 2-1 with a late goal from King Ciro.
Thanks again to Jerry for giving us some great insight into Lazio’s success this season. (Let’s just hope his prediction is off a bit) You can follow Jerry on Twitter @jmancini8. Meanwhile, check out Jerry’s work on The Laziali and World Football Index and hear him and co-host Sabrina Belmont on the Play by Play podcast. I’ll be joining them on the podcast post-match to discuss the Derby della Capitale. So, be sure to check it out.