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Chievo vs Lazio
Match Date: 29-11-2014
Location: Verona
Stadium Marc'Antonio Bentegodi
Referee Banti
Time 20:45 CET
Lazio meet Chievo Verona at the Stadio Bentegodi on Saturday evening in a game that has taken on special significance following humbling defeats at the hands of Empoli and Juventus. Stefano Mauri is adamant that nothing less than three points will suffice, and with the Mussi Volanti sitting in the relegation zone, it is hard to argue against the captain.

Chievo, however, are unbeaten under new coach Rolando Maran who has managed to guide his side to a win against fellow strugglers Cesena, and respectable draws in Udine, and at home to Sassuolo. Maran will be known to calcio connoisseurs as the man who guided Catania to their best season in the division, before taking them on the road to Serie B before being fired and rehired and re-fired - Zamparini style!

Joke aside, Maran is no laughing matter. Lazio fans might remember a certain game in Catania during the reign of Vladimir Petkovic where Maran's side repeatedly dismantled Lazio on the counter-attack, consigning Lazio to a 4-0 defeat on Sicilian soil. On that occasion, we were a little over-enthusiastic in attack and left holes at the back for the opposition to exploit. Worryingly, that was the story of the Juventus game last weekend and I fear our tactical approach plays to the strengths of Rolando Maran's management. Whether it plays to the strengths of the side he will put out on Saturday remains to be seen, but expect Chievo to park the bus and wait patiently for opportunities to arrive.

There is a very obvious trend with this Lazio whereby the first team to score in a Lazio game tends to emerge victorious. We did not take our opportunities against Empoli, and as soon as we presented them with a set-piece in a good position, they made us pay and there was no way back into the game. Against Juventus, we were holding our own until Pogba's opener, but that goal forced us to look for a way back into the game and the more we looked, the easier it was for the Old Lady to add to their tally.

The last time we were in Verona, we took the lead on the stroke of half-time, but failed to kick on. We have to learn these lessons. You know, a 'fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me' type of thing. On paper, this will be a tight affair - the type of game where tipsters will encourage people to gamble on the unders goal market - and if Lazio take the lead, Pioli has to go for the jugular. If Chievo take the lead, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest Lazio can get themselves a point never mind three. Pioli has to focus on guiding this team into a position of strength, and hope that the next time Lazio find themselves down in a game, that the players will be able to react. That was the disappointing aspect of the Juventus game - the fact there was no mental reaction from the players.

Pioli's job this week has been to bring about a reaction, and it is interesting to note that the training sessions are now taking place behind closed doors to mask our approach for Saturday's game. The media anticipate the continuation of the 4-3-3 with some slight changes in personnel, but do not be surprised if we see a move to 4-2-3-1. Senad Lulic is suspended for this game, and Ogenyi Onazi has stated previously in an interview that the manager does not see him as a comfortable fit on the left in the midfield trio. That opens the door to Alvaro Gonzalez, but it could be the case that Pioli is not comfortable with either option and may alter the system to spring a surprise on Maran, in which case Felipe Anderson and Antonio Candreva would most likely flank Stefano Mauri behind Filip Djordjevic. I'm going to stick my neck out and say we will move to a 4-2-3-1 for this game, because the decision to hide your players from onlookers suggests a change in approach.

In defence, long-term injuries to Santiago Gentiletti, Diego Novaretti and Michael Ciani has forced Pioli to consider his options, even if his options are running out. Stefan Radu was a surprising omission from the team that faced Juventus, but it was a decision the media predicted in advance. It was suggested that Edson Braafheid was simply the preferred option, but Radu was tested as a centre-back prior to Juventus and that has continued this week, which suggests Cana's place is under threat as opposed to the Dutchman's. Pioli appears to be grooming the Romanian for the centre-back role, but I think Cana will continue his partnership with De Vrij in the centre of defence on Saturday. Pioli cannot be certain of Radu's fitness or form, and I think in an away game it would be a gutsy call to re-introduce Radu to the team, so Braafheid should feature on the left. As for the others, neither Federico Marchetti or Dusan Basta impressed against Juventus, but they have the manager's trust and I cannot see a change being made there on the back of a performance where, let's face it, everyone disappointed.

Despite recent losses, I believe Lazio can exert their superiority over Chievo and return to Rome with three points, but it depends on the reaction. Three points are of the utmost importance, but they are important because it is reasonable to expect a revival in situations like these. Many of these players featured under Edy Reja and that man's reputation hinged on miraculous recoveries. Lose 4-0 to Siena one week, knock off Atalanta with ease the next. Lost 5-1 to Palermo and a fortnight later, guess who lost the derby? Yep, wasn't us.

We have become accustomed to this type of pragmatism - the one-game-at-a-time philosophy - and bad days being followed up with good days. Whether we are conscious of it or not, I feel this will be the first of (hopefully) many judgement days for Stefano Pioli. In years gone by, we got a reaction in these games. Will we get a reaction on Saturday and if so, what will it be? As a Lazio fan, I get some sort of weird kick out of this, but lose against Chievo and the only kick I'll feel is the one to my cojones.

Predicted line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Marchetti; Basta, De Vrij, Cana, Braafheid; Parolo, Biglia; Candreva, Mauri, Felipe Anderson; Djordjevic.


Writer: Cathal Mullan
 
  Standings
 
 
Team Name Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
3Lazio382161171383369
14Chievo381013152841-1343
 
  Form
 
 
Chievo vs Lazio
LLDWDWDWLL
 
  Recent Five Matches
 
 
Chievo vs Lazio
23 11 2014 Udinese vs Chievo 1-122 11 2014 Lazio vs Juventus 0-3
09 11 2014 Chievo vs Cesena 2-109 11 2014 Empoli vs Lazio 2-1
02 11 2014 Chievo vs Sassuolo 0-003 11 2014 Lazio vs Cagliari 4-2
29 10 2014 Palermo vs Chievo 1-030 10 2014 Verona vs Lazio 1-1
26 10 2014 Chievo vs Genoa 1-226 10 2014 Lazio vs Torino 2-1
 
  Players To Watch
 
Chievo / Sergio Pellisier
Sergio has gone on record and said he enjoys playing against Lazio because he always scores against them. He seems to have found his shooting boots recently, so he's the one to watch should he start.
Lazio / Filip Djordjevic
Got married, then divorced the Serbian national team, and was quiet against Juventus. This is a good opportunity for Filip to grab some more headlines for the right reasons.
 
 
  Referee Statistics
 
 
Chievo vs Lazio
L W D
L W D
402
011
 
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