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Lazio v Atalanta Match Preview and Scouting

Lazio and Atalanta collide in a massive tilt that’s bound to have very meaningful ramifications in the Champions League race. Both sides will be seeking to regain some momentum after a pair of underwhelming results.

  Serie A Week 22 – Saturday 11 February 2023 – Gewiss Stadium | Preview by Enrico Passarella



Lazio have been more linear than Atalanta in their seasonal trajectory, but they continue to deal with relevant flaws they haven’t been able to fix. Playing thrice per week is a major struggle, and they always look spent in the final one. That got them against Hellas Verona, where they picked up their second underwhelming draw in a row in Serie A after the Fiorentina one.

In the first half of the season, they sort of addressed it by snubbing Europa League, which wound up costing them the qualification to the knockout stage. That will predictably be the case, and even more glaringly, considering the relegation to the third continental cup. But they have had to deal with the same issue for years, and the solution would be simply to have a deeper roster and a lighter load in practice. They haven’t employed the first measure, and we’ll never know about the second one.

Two more defects impede their Champions League path. Even when they seem in control, they have five or ten-minute blackouts when their attention dips, they start making blunders, and the opponents have a few chances to score. With Ciro Immobile pretty much always on the mend or working his way back from a thigh injury, their frontline isn’t as prolific as at the peak of its powers, so they have more trouble outgunning other sides.

They recently thumped Milan, which is becoming an increasingly less impressive feat, but they often don’t perform up to their usual standards in more challenging fixtures. In that sense, it’s the Spiderman meme in this one. It’ll be very interesting to see which of the two contenders will manage to impose their will, or if it’ll be a war of attrition where both are scared of making the first move.

The January window brought just a relatively unknown winger up front, Diego Gonzalez, but it’ll probably take him a few months to be a legitimate option. They could have used a more established forward, regardless of the role, as Felipe Anderson has been adept as false-nine, considering Immobile and Pedro’s age and precarious health and the fact that the backups are really raw. Even somebody like Federico Bonazzoli would have helped, but they don’t have much financial room, and they preferred making their one addition elsewhere.

They onboard Luca Pellegrini on loan with option to buy from Juventus to add the lefty fullback they have been pursuing for a few years. Ironically enough, it happened while Elseid Hysaj is having the best stretch of his stay, as he has started over Manuel Lazzari in the last few matches, with Adam Marusic moving to the right flank. It happened primarily for defensive purposes, as Maurizio Sarri prefers such composition when Luis Alberto, and not Matias Vecino, starts in the midfield, but the Albanian international has been solid in both phases. The signing hints at an all-out offensive approach down the line. While alluring on paper, it clashes with reality, as it’d be hard to find the right balance, and the gaffer is the first to realize it.

Having the Spanish playmaker brings more pizzazz even when he’s just so-so, and his work rate and conditioning have surely improved compared to the first half of the season. But the last three poor results, considering the Coppa Italia loss against Juventus, could prompt the manager to revert back to Vecino. Such solution has lower upside, but it’s not too shabby since it allows Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to play closer to the box, which is never a bad thing. The Serb has a telekinetic connection with Immobile, and the one with Mattia Zaccagni, who has been their most consistent and brilliant one so far, is starting to grow too. There aren’t many teams that can stop Lazio when all their stars have it going. But that’s rarely the case and the factors that hinder them come more from within than from the outside.

As for the XI, Lazzari will try to unseat one of two fullbacks, while Danilo Cataldi is banged up and will be a late call. In case he can’t go, Vecino would have better chances of replacing him than Marcos Antonio, who’s not ready for the big stage yet.

Expected XI (4-3-3):  Provedel; Marusic, Casale, Romagnoli, Hysaj; Milinkovic-Savic, Vecino, Luis Alberto; Felipe Anderson, Immobile, Zaccagni. 

Lazio v Atalanta



Atalanta found great success when they switched to an extreme 3-4-3 with Jeremie Boga exiting the doghouse, but Gian Piero Gasperini hasn’t fully committed to it just yet. They dialed it back in the past two matches with meager results, even though the Sassuolo one was odd given an early red card. As a few other sides considering Juventus and Milan’s troubles, they have a real shot at a top-four finish, but they need to rid themselves of the tendency of being streaky.

A bump in the road here or there isn’t too hurtful, but they usually run into multiple ones in a row before turning it around. That goes the other way too, though, because they sometimes rip off eight-to-ten-game stretches where they look unbeatable. The opponents will be in real trouble if they produce one of those stretches in a timely fashion. They are arguably in a better spot than most competitors since they don’t have the cups, so they don’t need to manage energies and can go all-out in every Serie A fixture.

It’s more deciding to make hay in easier fixtures, but taking home a head-to-head clash can go a long way. On paper, it should be a fascinating clash between two gaffers that lean on highly proactive and fast-paced styles. However, both wouldn’t be new to taking it down a notch when facing foes of similar caliber, especially since there’s a lot at stake.

Boga still runs a little hot and cold, so the coach hasn’t gone all-in on him, even though he has had a tremendous start in 2023. The benefits of fielding him, Rasmus Hojlund, and Ademola Lookman together are so clear that he should overlook his defects. He doesn’t score a lot and sometimes gets too stubborn in trying to glide past everybody. He’s ‘fumoso’ at times, as they say in Italy in a way that can’t be adequately translated. However, they need such a pristine assist-man in a team filled with finishers. His role stretches defenses, opening up room for everybody. Since Lookman is a major threat no matter whether he’s a second striker or a right-winger, the trident should be the only way to go. Teams might have figured out their typical formation at this point, plus Mario Pasalic and Ederson haven’t been convincing enough to justify using them as no.10s. They should turn to in only when managing matches.

They should have perhaps supported their tactical evolution by adding a pure winger late in the window after they parted ways with Ruslan Malinovskyi, so they could deploy it even when Boga doesn’t have it. There’s also a more restrained option featuring Brandon Soppy, but that hasn’t seen the light of day in real matches. The youngster had an helluva start, but then the coach preferred more conservative choices. Hans Hateboer and Joakim Maehle have started to show better and with more energy. Plus, Matteo Ruggeri emerged as a solid option during the winter, and he’s their only lefty. He’ll most likely start in this one since the Dane is suspended.

Hojlund has also turned the corner, and they were the team that exploited the pause the most in terms of player development. He’s super young and came from a second-tier league, so some time to adapt to Serie A was inevitable. In addition, price tags shouldn’t be big factors, but they inevitably have some weight, especially in teams that don’t usually splurge. He has really come into his own, he has remarkable speed and technique for his size, and he has thrived when their tactical switch unclogged the middle. Instead, Lookman was helped by the additional room and because defenders can’t key on him as much as before since they have more attackers to worry about. The only equally dangerous alternative is using Teun Koopmeiners in the hole, but they haven’t done it much. It took him just a season and a quarter to become a total stud and indispensable, and his passing and shooting touch takes them to another level.

Gasperini deserves credit for reinventing himself on the fly when they had gotten stale. It took them a while to move on from an offense based on the cuts on wingbacks and Duvan Zapata’s physical superiority. Lookman single-handedly added new elements since he’s extremely clutch for a winger. Now they have to complete the transition to a new era by embracing their new pace-and-space frontline without looking back and resume facing even top-notch opponents head-on and without adjustments, as they did in their heyday.

Expected XI (3-4-3):  Musso; Toloi, Djimsiti, Scalvini; Hateboer, De Roon, Koopmeiners, Ruggeri; Lookman, Hojlund, Boga. 


Lazio: Radu (thigh strain). 

Atalanta: Maehle, Muriel (suspension), Pasalic (ankle sprain). 

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