Best odds: 5/2
The biggest game of the 24th round, and indeed one of the most important derbies of the entire 2019/20 season when it comes to deciding the Serie A title, is set to be played in Rome on Sunday evening, when Lazio welcome Inter Milan to the Stadio Olimpico.
Along with Atalanta, Lazio have been one of the brightest spots of Italian football this season. With Juventus dominating the league for years, only occasionally challenged by Napoli in previous seasons, as well as Inter Milan investing heavily in their team last summer, very few people will have expected them to be in the race for the Scudetto. Yet, here they are, in third place after 23 rounds, with only one point less in the bag than the Nerazzurri and the Old Lady sharing the top two spots. Quite apart from that, Lazio have already put a trophy on their shelf this term by beating Juventus in the Italian Supercoppa.
That aside, their last game at home was a somewhat disappointing 0-0 draw against Verona, especially as it came after the 5-1 thrashing of SPAL. They should still be in good spirits coming into the clash with Inter, having won away to Parma last week by 0-1. On the other hand, their involvement in this season’s Coppa Italia ended in the quarterfinals, where Napoli got the better of them in a highly controversial game which saw both teams go down to 10 men in the first half.
Given the situation with the league table, Lazio won’t be losing much sleep over that right now. It’s the same with the Europa League, where they failed to reach the knockout stages by finishing behind Celtic and Club Brugge in Group E.
One of the main reasons for Lazio’s great result has certainly been the form of Ciro Immobile. With 25 goals so far in a league with the coefficient of 2, the striker leads the way in the European Golden Shoe race, ahead of the likes of Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus.
Head coach and former Lazio star Simone Inzaghi is currently without his captain, midfielder Senad Lulic, and while in his absence the armband is being worn by Nicolo Parolo, Lulic’s place on the left side of midfield is mostly filled by Jonathan Rodriguez Menendez, more commonly known as Jony. The rest of the squad is at Inzaghi’s disposal on Sunday.
It was quite obvious from their transfer dealings last summer that Inter Milan were planning to fully take on Juventus for the domination in Italian football in the years to come. They first brought former Juventus boss Antonio Conte in to take the reins, and then they made expensive additions to their team. Bringing in Romelu Lukaku from Manchester United for €65 million may have seemed like folly to some, but the Belgian striker proved his doubters wrong with 21 goals and four assists in 31 appearances in all competitions so far. They also took Alexis Sanchez on loan from United, though the former Udinese, Barcelona and Arsenal forward is yet to make a case for himself having missed a large chunk of the campaign through injury. Diego Godin arrived from Atletico Madrid as a free agent.
Inter followed the summer with another busy window in January, adding yet another player from the Old Trafford outfit in Ashley Young, and Christian Eriksen from Tottenham Hotspur. On the other hand, they reportedly face a battle to keep the services of striker Lautaro Martinez away from the groping hands of Barcelona and Real Madrid at the end of the season.
The numerous chops and changes the club made have obviously produced results. The Nerazzurri top the Serie A table ahead of Juventus on goal-difference, and as has been said above, the race for the Scudetto is set to be contested by the two clubs and Lazio, probably right down to the last round.
In the Champions League, Inter also finished third in their group, behind Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund, and they will face Ludogorets in the Europa League round of 32 with the first leg being played next week in Bulgaria. As for the Coppa, Napoli got the better of them (0-1) at their Giuseppe Meazza stadium in the first leg of the semi-final on Wednesday, and they’ll be hoping to make it up when the two sides meet in Naples on 5th of March.
Conte is currently without the services of midfielders Stefano Sensi and Roberto Gagliardini, as well as 17-year-old forward Sebastiano Esposito.
Both teams are likely to take a patient approach in this match. Neither will rush forward too rashly and risk being exposed at the back. Not to get beaten will likely be their main objective, and it’s very likely that both teams will achieve that particular aim.
Best odds: 5/2
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!