Saturday Jan 23, 2021  
  24/08/2013: Preview: Lazio - Udinese
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It is with great anticipation, and a touch of anxiety, that we as Lazio fans look forward to welcoming Udinese to Stadio Olimpico. The Friuli outfit has been the last few seasons’ largest party wrecker for the Romans as they have managed to finish ahead of Lazio by a point or two once the season has been concluded. Two and three seasons ago it was a matter of the final Champions League spot that was lost to Guidolin’s men, while last season saw Udinese finishing in fifth, with Lazio on seventh. 

In what was the first game between the two sides last season, as late as in November that time around, Lazio displayed what by many has been labelled as the best performance of the season. Udinese were crushed 3-0 and Gonzalez, Klose and Hernanes were the names on the score sheet. At that point of the season and up until Christmas Lazio looked like a title contender to some, a run of form that went missing during the later stages. For Udinese the form curve had exactly the opposite pattern. With eight straight wins in the league towards the end of the season, as opposed to only two wins in the first ten games, Di Natale and his comrades ended the season looking like the real deal. A strike by the little hit man sunk Lazio in Udinese and in recent years the trend has been clear; the team which plays away does not manage to win. Fact is, one has to go all the way back to early 2009 before finding an away win and back then it was Udinese that beat Lazio 3-1. 

It has become evident over the years that when the two teams fight each other it is rarely boring games with low scores. In the same time span as referred to above only one game has seen less than two goals and the ten games played in the five recent seasons have seen a total of 34 goals scored between the teams. The Udinese icon Di Natale has alone scored eight of those and has scored in six out of ten games against Lazio since 2008/2009. No wonder then that Petkovic has communicated that Lazio must neutralise the soon to be 36 year old striker to stand a chance of starting the league campaign with a win. 

To continue looking at the goal scoring record of the two teams it becomes clear why Udinese have managed to beat Lazio in the standings in recent years. Since 2010/2011 Udinese have managed to score 14 goals more than Lazio and at the same time conceded seven goals less. That points out the difference between the sides and with an average goals scored ratio of 1.55 per match for the bianconeri as compared to 1.34 for the biancocelesti (1.32 being the league average) the nucleus of the problem of why Udinese beat Lazio in the standings year after year becomes obvious. With the stats presented, it is clear that Lazio will have to step up their attacking game if interested in advancing the standings the coming season.

Coming from a 4-0 thumping against Juventus, Lazio have already found themselves in a state of panic, with names on their way in come flying from left and right. Mainly it is the striking department that seems to be the focus at the moment, while the chase of a centre back seems to have stalled in recent weeks. For the Sunday evening game everything is pointing towards a switch back to Petkovic’s 4-1-4-1, rather than the 4-2-3-1 that was employed last week. One of the major problems all through the last few seasons has been creating enough scoring opportunities for Klose, or whoever else is up there, and there is no solution in sight for this issue. If Gonzalez is fit enough he should be finding himself on the pitch again as the Uruguayan’s presence has been guaranteeing points, while his absence has meant losses for Lazio. Not that Tata provides assists or goals, at least not to an extent where this could be bragged about, but his aggressive style of play and his constant pressing forces the opposition to make mistakes in the centre of the pitch. Without Gonzalez much more passivity is present, allowing the opposition to find their way in behind the Lazio midfielders. Lulic and Candreva are certain starters if reports are to be believed and everyone is wondering how Lazio will be able to set up more scoring chances than what has become customary. Hernanes looked like the shadow he sometimes does in the season opener and if the Brazilian is not delivering, it seems no one is. Candreva managed seven goals and as many assists last season, but has no goals in open play in 2013. Lazio has the capacity to beat Udinese in a similar style as the memorable 3-0 win, but if Di Natale is to continue his tradition of sinking Lazio with a goal or two this will be a game that force Lotito and Tare to act. There is no one thinking that Petkovic would get the boot and the Bosnian has been asking for a quality attacker since he joined a little over a year ago, but something has to be done. Against Juventus Lazio created ten scoring opportunities and failed on all occasions, while the opposition scored on four out of five attempts at goal. His players will have to get out there and score goals and convert their chances if the manager’s ideas for the upcoming season are to be trusted and as the stats show, one goal will not be enough to secure three points for the Aquilotti on Sunday.

Only Konko and Anderson remain side lined for the game and Petkovic has more or less a full squad to choose from. Udinese suffered a heavy 3-1 loss against Liberec on Thursday as the team got beaten at home in the last round of the Europa League qualification and Guidolin has indicated changes might occur in the starting eleven after the devastating result. Latest news also confirm that Lazio will have to play without the Curva Nord on Sunday as the Italian federation decided to punish Lazio after racial abuse had been heard directed towards the coloured players of Juventus in the Supercoppa Italiana.

Possible lineups:

Lazio: Marchetti, Cavanda, Dias, Biava, Radu, Ledesma, Candreva, Gonzalez, Hernanes, Lulic, Klose. 

Udinese: Kelava, Heurtaux, Danilo, Domizzi, Basta, Pereyra, Allan, Lazzarri, Gabriel Silva, Muriel, Di Natale
Author: Khashayar Kashefi
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