At first glance, it’s the proverbial David and Goliath. Lazio vs Benevento may seem like a sure thing, but Lazio fans can be forgiven for taking nothing for granted; and nor should the team. Coach Inzaghi alluded to the fact in his pre-game press conference – “Tomorrow begins the most critical phase of the season and we must make sure that our results reflect our performances.”
Under the circumstances, Benevento is either the best team to start the beginning of the end of your season against, or the worst. The witches, who are virtually certain to be relegated at the end of the season, will be motivated to desperately hold on to whatever points they can achieve. However, their performances thus far have been abysmal and they currently sit 12 points adrift in dead last. No surprise for a team that has conceded a league worst 63 goals while scoring only a second-lowest 19. For Lazio, this is a perfect opportunity to get back to winning against a team that may not have a great deal in the way of quality, but will certainly be looking to provide Lazio with few opportunities. Lazio vs Benevento will be interesting to watch, as the home side will have to be patient as they attempt to break down what will be a dogged defense.
What should have been a much needed international break, has turned out to be anything but for Simone Inzaghi who vocally criticised the heavy usage of Marco Parolo and Ciro Immobile by the Italian national team over the break. And while the Lazio skipper can count on the return, at least partially, of Milinkovic-Savic and Caceres (though both are unlikely to start the match) the same cannot be said for Radu, Lukaku and Lulic who will most likely miss the match through injury. The result is a bit of an emergency on the flanks.
In light of the absences, Inzaghi has hinted that Felipe Anderson may feature as an external midfielder in his classic 3-5-1-1. However, it’s a role that the pacy Brazilian has often struggled to fulfill. Inzaghi tried to reassure concerns by pointing out that Anderson was not called up for international duties and therefore has had plenty of time to rest and prepare for the match. With a contract expiring in 2020, Lazio brass will no doubt be carefully watching for signs of a return to the form that electrified fans in recent years. So far this season has been fraught with injury and inconsistency and Anderson will want to finish the season as strongly as possible; his future at the club may be at stake.
Benevento will likely have to do without Andrea Costa, Pietro Iemello and aging French star Bacary Sagna. Benevento also bring along with them two homegrown Lazio players in Cataldi and Lombardi. The two have largely underperformed in what has been a dismal season at Benevento, but a return to their hometown to face their boyhood club will undoubtedly spark some enthusiasm.
The away match at Benevento may have finished with a lopsided 5-1 but the score flatters to deceive. While it is true that Lazio leaped to an early lead, they also allowed Benevento to remain in the match until relatively late. In fact, Benevento threatened to re-open the match after cutting the Lazio lead to 3-1 in the 55th minute and creating a handful of very good opportunities. It was not until the 76th minute when Parolo sealed the match that the full 3 points seemed secure. It took far too long and Lazio will want to avoid wasting precious energy as they enter a very condensed final phase to the season.
Lazio vs Benevento Likely Formations
Lazio (3-5-2) Strakosha, Bastos, De Vrij, Luis Felipe, Marusic, Parolo, Leiva, Luis Alberto, Patric, Felipe Anderson, Immobile
Benevento (4-3-3) Pugioni, Venuti, Djimisti, Tosca, Letizia, Djuricic, Sandro, Viola, Guilherme, Coda, Brignola