On 27.02.2022, Lazio will square off with Napoli in a monumental clash between third and sixth. With Fiorentina close behind the Romans, taking points from this fixture would be a significant accomplishment for Maurizio Sarri’s faltering squad.
Napoli’s Talented Starting XI
In the midfield, exceptional creative ability combines with intelligent distribution. Fabian Ruiz is one of the best deep-lying playmakers in the league, and a rotating cast of midfielders play in front of the Spaniard. Elif Elmas and Piotr Zielinski are two of the high-profile names who roam the attacking third.
However, Napoli’s biggest strength is their three forwards. Victor Osimhen, Lorenzo Insigne and Matteo Politano are the usual starters, playing at the front of the 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. The trio bring a diverse skill set: Osimhen functions as a hold-up striker and target man with elite finishing, Insigne likes to cut into the middle and look to shoot or play through-balls, and Politano is a more traditional winger who plays wide.
What Went Wrong for Lazio Against Napoli in November?
When Lazio previously played Napoli in November, the Biancocelesti were in the worst defensive form imaginable. Against Udinese and their Neapolitan foes, Sarri’s side conceded eight goals in two matches.
In the 0-4 result, Hirving Lozano and Dries Mertens ran the show for Napoli. The Mexican, a like-for-like replacement for Politano, showcased his creativity on the wing, giving Elseid Hysaj a difficult time in defense. Mertens flaunted his finishing ability, scoring a brace and also completing 100% of his passes.
Defensively, protecting the backline proved a difficult task for Lazio. Danilo Cataldi was unable to defend against Napoli’s technical midfielders, who are adept at creating space in the attacking third. They like to work the ball toward the goal and find backpass options in space at the top of the box. The team’s exceptional long-range shooting ability makes this strategy feasible, and it means that opposing clubs must have a quality presence in the defensive midfield.
Lazio’s other problems stemmed from being unable to get Ciro Immobile the ball in dangerous areas. Napoli’s pair of centre-backs, Rrahmani and Koulibaly, effectively shut down the striker, allowing him just 26 touches in 90 minutes.
As both clubs had European matches on Thursday, this result could come down to whether either side deploys their starters. Unfortunately for Lazio, Luciano Spalletti’s Azzurri have a much deeper roster, and the result from the previous round bodes poorly for the hosts.
Prediction: Lazio 0-2 Napoli