Lazio coach Vladimir Petkovic has warned pundits against judging his side prematurely as they prepare to face Fiorentina.
Battling in sixth spot in Serie A with three wins from their six matches, Lazio are in danger of losing touch with the top five if they are beaten on Sunday.
Despite having injury and suspension worries heading into the clash, Petkovic said there was still time for his side to recover from their indifferent start.
“It is still premature to give this Lazio an identity,” Petkovic told reporters.
“Last season we started strong and then lost our way, while this time we paid a heavy price for the Italian Super Cup defeat to Juventus.
“That created negativity, more on the outside of the club than inside, and the team suffered for that.”
Striker Miroslav Klose is sidelined along with Abdoulay Konko, Stefan Radu, Giuseppe Biava and Bruno Pereirinha.
Petkovic, who is also without the suspended Stefano Mauri, said how both teams recovered from UEFA Europa League outings on Thursday could be decisive.
“The growth of young players is important, but above all that the team grows. Everyone has to play for Lazio and we need healthy competition for places,” he said.
“Fiorentina were tipped to be one of the favourites at the start of the season, so they want to go far.
“We’ll see who is fresher after long Europa League trips, though psychological sharpness will be even more important. We’re back on the right track and now need confirmation against Fiorentina.
“We are one point behind the ‘Viola’, but there is a whole season ahead of us. They will have more pressure on them than Lazio.
“Everyone has to give 20 per cent more than against Trabzonspor to get the better of Fiorentina.”