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Palermo vs Lazio
Match Date: 29-09-2014
Location: Palermo
Stadium Renzo Barbera
Referee Di Bello
Time 21:00 CET
Lazio travel to the Stadio Renzo Barbero to take on Palermo on Monday evening, knowing that three points are desired, no matter how they are obtained. The Silician stadium has been somewhat of a graveyard for managers, due in no small part to Palermo President Maurizio Zamparini's own lack of patience, but if you believe the media, it is the Lazio President that could be wielding the axe on Tuesday morning.

In truth, things are probably much different to how they are being presented by the media. Zamparini claimed last week that even if his manager Beppe Iachini lost the next five games, he would be safe, but nobody is buying that line for even a second. A loss at home to Lazio with only three points on the board would be the perfect ammunition for Zamparini to fire. Meanwhile Stefano Pioli, in pretty much the same circumstance but with a vastly superior team on paper, can sleep easy. Claudio Lotito is not fond of sackings, unless of course you agree to join another football team while contracted to the club. Or your name is Davide Ballardini.

As both teams are in the same predicament having picked up a mere three points in four games, it is difficult to call this one. Palermo have played four teams who could well finish in the top half of Serie A (Sampdoria, Verona, Inter and Napoli) and have come away with a result in all but one of those fixtures. You would have to think that if they continue to play as well as they have, a victory over Lazio is a realistic goal. That being said, Lazio should have more than three points on the board at this stage. Defensive chaos at the San Siro and the inability to put the ball in the back of the net is at this early stage, the difference between sitting pretty and being in the gutter, looking at the stars. You would be forgiven for thinking Lazio's luck could turn and could turn soon.

Yet, one of those thoughts has to be put on hold as both teams cannot win, to state the obvious. Nevertheless, I am optimistic about our chances. As we learned on Thursday evening, logic can rarely be applied when predicting the outcome of a football game. All signs pointed to us squeaking a win against Udinese, even with a depleted team. We had played well so far this season, we had been unlucky in Genoa and perhaps in Milan as well and you felt that if we continued on this path, we would ultimately succeed. Stefano Pioli said in his pre-Udinese press conference that he was convinced by the performances, and that the performances now needed to be converted into a positive result. Once again we dominated a game, but the result never came. Unlucky? No. We need to make our own luck. We can no longer be convinced by our methods, and we need some sort of reaction.

Meanwhile Beppe Iachini will be hoping that the positive results Palermo have achieved will be followed up with another on home soil. That's the pattern he can expect, but it could just as easily be the case that Palermo have not yet learned how to win a football game in Serie A, and that they will fail to do so until they alter their philosophy. They fought back well against Napoli and sent a message out in the process, but let's not overlook the fact that they were in a winning position in their first three games and did not win. That is something we can exploit.

This is the part of the preview where I make an educated guess as to what Pioli will do this weekend, but that is far from easy this time out. Stefan De Vrij returns from suspension and should slot back into the right centre-back role with Lorik Cana and Edson Braafheid to his left and Federico Marchetti behind them. Dusan Basta had a hand injury and now a leg injury and is doubtful for the game. If the manager feels he can get anywhere near 90 minutes out of the Serbian, then I would expect him to feature. If not, take your pick between Konko, Cavanda and Pereirinha. It would be a coin toss if a coin had three sides.

The midfield is even more uncertain. Lucas Biglia is sidelined with his foot injury, while Alvaro Gonzalez and Danilo Cataldi look set to miss the trip. Pioli was critical of the midfield after the Udinese game and may be tempted to try something different to the 4-3-3 which we have seen so far this season, but he is very limited with the options available to him. I think he will give the 4-3-3 another chance, but will ask his players to add some intensity to their game as - Edson Braafheid aside - that was evidently missing on Thursday. As Marco Parolo was substituted midweek, I think he will have just enough legs to be preferred to Ogenyi Onazi while Cristian Ledesma should retain his place with Senad Lulic returning to the fold.

In attack, there is plenty of speculation in the media currently that Stefano Mauri could be deployed as a false nine. It worked for Edy Reja last season, but I think it is dangerous to assume something that worked for another manager in a previous season could work now. Yet, Lazio would benefit greatly from his leadership and him leading the line may well bring a sense of calm to those around him. Antonio Candreva is surely tired, but I do not think a manager fighting to keep the fans on side can drop him and I would be surprised if Pioli feels he can continue keeping Keita on the bench. The difference between Felipe Anderson and Keita was all too apparent when Felipe Anderson's only real contribution to the Udinese game was firing wide when well positioned to score having gone on a mazy dribble. Keita brings those same qualities in attack, except he more often than not will make the goalkeeper work in such a position.

I definitely think Pioli's selection played a significant role in our defeat to Udinese: Federico Marchetti was far too eccentric, the likes of Konko and Onazi did not look up to speed, Felipe Anderson still looks quite out of his depth in this division and Miroslav Klose looked a shadow of his former self. There were other options and some of the decisions simply did not pan out well. Lazio were bereft of leadership, bereft of ideas, bereft of team spirit and bereft of any kind of belief or desire. To beat Palermo and to come anywhere close to reaching our goals for the season, we need to discover these attributes quickly. If the players believe in Pioli as much as they say they do in interviews on LazioStyle Radio, then a few key changes and a good win can put us back on the right track. If the players have lost their belief in the manager, or never had that belief to begin with, then Pioli needs to take responsibility and demand a reaction. Either way, Lazio on Monday have got to be a different proposition. The football has been good, dare I say entertaining, but wins put smiles on faces and keeps bums on seats. It is time to win.

Writer: C
Team Name Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
Palermo vs Lazio
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Palermo vs Lazio
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