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Lazio vs Napoli
Match Date: 09-02-2013
Location: Rome
Stadium Olimpico
Referee Orsato
Time 20:45 CET
Going back three weeks in time Lazio looked like the main threat to Juventus as Napoli had been struck with a two point deduction and Lazio had overtaken the second spot. Juventus were struggling to maintain the focus on the league and Lazio looked untroubled in the 16 games that the team had gone unbeaten, while Napoli looked like losing focus. Once Napoli’s point deduction had been reversed and Cannavaro had been reintegrated the tide changed and now the Partenopei sit comfortably in second position, only two points behind the league leaders, and Lazio have got two consecutive losses and have not been able to win in three straight league games in the weakest run of form since Petkovic took over.

“This is our chance to show we are to be considered as the main challenge for the Scudetto” said Petkovic in today’s press conference. I would take it even further and say that the game against Napoli will decide the rest of the season. Inter and Milan are both only three points behind the capital outfit and when the round is to be concluded Lazio might have slipped down to fifth position. The chance has been there to extend the nine point cushion down to the second team of Rome, but the Biancocelesti have been horribly poor the last few weeks.

What is it then that has gone wrong? Well, what hasn’t? Klose has been injured and will continue to be so for quite some time. The speculation of two months is media creation, but he will surely miss a run of games due to the knee injury picked up in the first half in the loss to Genoa. Without the German Lazio are not the same team as with the Bomber and despite Floccari having delivered, an in form Klose is world class. And he is the only world class attacker in Lazio today.
Furthermore, Lazio have been suffering because of the lack of chances being created in the games. In all honesty there is only Mauri who can set up others continuously, and he has done so five times this season, which clearly is not enough to push Lazio into becoming a real threat to Juventus at the top.

Add to this the fact that the team has advanced to the Coppa Italia final, has made it to the next round of the Europa League and in doing so remain in three competitions and it is as clear as a crystal that Lazio are in need of players to be added to the team. January came and went and Lazio signed Peireirinha and nothing else. The Portuguese might be a revelation and turn into a hit signing, but given his natural position he can never become the creative force Lazio have been lacking all season.

As Hernanes was hit unconscious, Klose forced to sit out games for the coming month or so, the need of adding someone to the squad became evident also to the Lazio management. In effect, former top class striker Louis Saha was brought in two days ago as he was released by Sunderland and approved by FIFA to join a Lazio in need. Will he be the savior? I doubt it, but he is a gamble worth trying out.

What about Napoli, then? Well, Mazzarri’s men have stepped on the gas pedal and are only three points behind the league leaders and are again over achieving. I am referring to the success of their campaign so far as an over achievement since I rate the quality Napoli has lower than the quality present in Lazio, Inter, Milan and maybe even Roma. However, they have a pragmatic coach who has enough character and knowledge to continue to surprise the opponents with new tactical approaches – and they have Cavani and Hamsik. The duo is, in my highly subjective opinion, the only two players who would be included in a starting eleven if the Lazio and Napoli players were combined. With a goal scoring machine like the Uruguayan in a team, something that Lazio desperately lack even with Klose on the pitch and have done so for quite some time, the opponents can never relax and with a footballing brain like Hamsik backing Cavani up, any team in the world can be beaten.

Cavani has 18 league goals to his name so far this season, a tally I cannot remember a Lazio player having reached for a long long time. And there is still a large portion of the season left. The Matador, as they call him down in Naples, finished off Lazio more or less on his own when the teams went head to head at San Paolo. With a hat-trick, he has two to his name this season, and a missed penalty added to that he showed how vulnerable Lazio could turn out to be against a top class striker.

On the other hand, the Napoli defense does not belong to the top of the table. Lazio have been doing a lot better lately in that department, but with Biava out against Genoa it became evident what an influencing detail he has been this season. Older than most players in the league, Biava has had his best season ever this year, and much of the success or failure in the Saturday clash depends on how well he manages to keep the back line together.

There has been plenty of speculation about the possible and potential starting eleven for Lazio, as Gonzalez returned with an injury from the international duty, while Candreva has been away with a flu and poor form lately. Klose has already been mentioned and Dias has been a liability too. In the case of Hernanes it seems as if the Brazilian is set to start despite the early reports of missing a month of action after having picked up a head injury against Juventus in the Coppa Italia semis, something that will give hope to the Lazio faithful.

So, time has come for Petkoivic to show he has learnt something during his first season. His team was punished by Chievo in a similar fashion to the way Genoa managed to beat Lazio at Stadio Olimpico, the only two losses on home soil for the Eagles of Rome, showing that the Bosnian is still far from fully learned. Now a team that humiliated his boys as the season had just started, I think all Laziali remember the complete failure in tactics and approach that he went for when his team travelled to Naples earlier this season, will visit and the hopes are that Petkovic has something up the sleeve to surprise Mazzarri as well as the players on the pitch. A loss would most probably mean Game Over in the run for Champions League, or at least make it a lot more complicated with the three competitions ongoing and a dip in form that has made things unmanageable for the team chasing the nicest of all footballing competitions, while a win would be a statement that there is still plenty of points to play for and that Lazio is a side that should be counted with.

It is time to spread out those wings again and fly towards the top of the league.

Possible lineups:

Lazio: Marchetti, Konko, Biava, Dias, Radu, Cana, Ledesma, Candreva, Hernanes, Mauri, Floccari.

Napoli: De Sanctis, Gamberini, Cannavaro, Britos, Maggio, Behrami, Inler, Zuniga, Hamsik, Pandev, Cavani.

Writer: Khashayar Kashefi
Team Name Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
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  Players To Watch
Lazio / Giuseppe Biava
It has to be Biava. The center back has been a giant for the Biancocelesti this season and as soon as he is out, as against Genoa, the team looks disorganised and out of plans and ideas when defending. Paired up with Dias Lazio have the best duo available for the back line, something that will surely be needed now that Cavani, Pandev and Hamsik are to be found on the other side of the pitch. Biava might be the difference for Lazio and Petkovic when the game is to be concluded.
Napoli / Valon Behrami
Behrami was much of a fan favourite for the Laziali as he always played with heart and dedication when on the pitch. The Albanian Swiss international left Lazio to move to the Premier League, but made his return to Serie A a couple of seasons ago and is now to be found in Napoli. He still offers the same characteristics as he did for the Romans, while he has also managed to mature and is now one of the best midfielders in the league.
  Referee Statistics
Lazio vs Napoli
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