Lazio boss Maurizio Sarri has been critical of the mindset of Rome’s two biggest football clubs regarding their domestic and European ambitions. Sarri believes Lazio and Roma still think in “such a provincial manner” when it comes to their lofty aspirations, suggesting that the clubs are more focused on outdoing their bitter rivals than making genuine strides in Serie A and in European competition.
Sarri was quizzed by the Italian press about whether Lazio finishing above their city neighbours was the club’s number-one priority. The experienced manager was visibly frustrated at the insinuation that success for Lazio equated to finishing above Roma in the league. Sarri insisted that the “time had come” for both clubs to focus on themselves rather than looking over their shoulders. Sarri said that the city of Rome deserves “two strong teams” and that although the Rome derby will “always be the match of the year”, the teams should focus harder on the “big picture”.
What Does the Big Picture Look Like for Lazio at the End of 2021/22?
The big picture for this season shows Lazio are still in pole position for fifth place in Serie A and immediate qualification into the UEFA Europa League. Lazio and Sarri have been heavily indebted to on-song forward Ciro Immobile for his 27-goal season so far. With an average of just 101 minutes per goal, the experienced frontman has been the difference-maker for Le Aquile this term.
With two games remaining, Lazio still hold the advantage over their city rivals, and Immobile will no doubt be called upon to add to his goal tally for the tricky trip to Juventus before a season closer at home against Hellas Verona. Immobile is on course to land the Serie A Golden Boot award too, standing four goals clear of second-placed Dusan Vlahovic. Immobile is priced as short as -3335 with Unibet to clinch the award. This European sportsbook recently opened its doors for our US-based readers and is now listed on OddsChecker as one of several operators highly regarded for their welcome promotions and secure, trusted betting platforms.
The acid test for Le Aquile will be their penultimate Serie A game of the season with a road trip to Juventus looming. Juve are well and truly out of the title reckoning this season, with only third or fourth place to play for, which could play nicely into Lazio’s hands. Sarri was questioned about his likely welcome from the Juventus faithful, given the 63-year-old’s brief spell at the helm of the Turin club in 2019-20. He batted back any suggestions of the game being about him and said that his team is “seeking points to qualify for Europe” and was focused on little else.
Avoiding the Europa Conference League Would Represent a Step Forward
A fifth placed finish would be a step in the right direction for Sarri’s side, who finished sixth in 2020/21 under former boss Simone Inzaghi. Immediate entry into the group stage of the Europa League would be a big opportunity for Le Aquile to push for European honours once more. For that to realistically happen, Sarri knows full well that his squad needs to be strengthened sufficiently to battle on domestic and continental fronts.
This season, Sarri has been exasperated at his wafer-thin squad at times. He has found it difficult to pick his strongest eleven throughout the campaign, with injuries affecting them through their Europa League group stage. Sarri appeared to be somewhat relieved at their exit from the competition this year, adding that the team had “averaged two points per game” since their elimination.
Of course, Sarri is far more ambitious than this. He has managed at the top table of European football in the Champions League and knows that, for Lazio to return to such lofty heights, they need sufficient squad depth. One player that Sarri could use to fund the expansion of his squad this summer is Luis Alberto. The former Liverpool playmaker has found the going tough under Sarri, with his attributes not fitting into the manager’s 4-3-3 system. The Spaniard is in the prime of his career and still has a market value of almost £30m, according to Transfermarkt.