Maurizio Sarri underlined his desire to see a strong response from his Lazio squad in their Champions League opener against Atletico Madrid.
The Biancocelesti have failed to impress in the early weeks of the 2023-24 campaign, suffering losses to Lecce, Genoa and Juventus. The only bright spot so far for Sarri’s side is their 2-1 win away to Napoli, a sign that the team can hit higher levels than shown in their first four outings.
Atletico have also struggled to hit their mark this term, giving Lazio the chance to pick up a key result in their Champions League group, which also contains Feyenoord and Celtic.
Speaking in a press conference (via La Lazio Siamo Noi), Sarri first discussed the response he expects from the Lazio squad.
I expect the team to continue to improve by removing the flaws of the beginning of the season. The most obvious defects now are an approach to the game in which we struggle.
And then the decisive moments in the decisive areas of the pitch. Too soft in our own and the opponent’s area. At the level of play in the other 70 metres of the pitch we are also making progress.
He touched on his opinion of Diego Simeone’s tactical system.
I said that my way of seeing football was different to his, but that I had esteem for him. He has his own way of playing, but he did very well with it in Spain and in Europe.
The Biancocelesti coach was asked if this match was a good opportunity for Lazio to turn things around.
I think you have to go game by game, think about individual events. Now the schedule offers us this, we have problems to solve, but also the awareness of having done better against Napoli and Juve than the first two games.
Now we need the decisive step. Against strong teams there are always opportunities and risks.
Sarri discussed if it was best for Lazio to face Atletico first in their group.
Our team has been tight in the last two. There was a less decisive approach, that’s why the centre of gravity was lower at the beginning. But we never broke down and didn’t concede any counters to the opponents.
I regret that we are conceding goals in easily avoidable situations, even when we are well set up. There were 54 balls played in the opponent’s area, without translating into anything concrete…
This makes me angry, we need to do better in dirty situations in the two areas. Tomorrow, we play Atletico, we need a result, whether it’s the best or the worst opponent I don’t know now.
The results are not positive, theoretically it should be a bad moment for us, but we must not think about that. Doing a positive result would be important in view of reaching the knockout stages.
He gave his thoughts on Ciro Immobile, Matteo Guendouzi and Daichi Kamada.
Immobile has the destiny of great strikers, he’s a player you can’t do without when he scores, who is criticised when he doesn’t.
It is always like that for those who score 30 goals a season, now the team is giving little depth, this is costing us something in terms of scoring.
The team has to help him, and he also has to do it by looking for more depth instead of coming deep too many times.
Kamada and Guendouzi I think there is a chance to see them together, when Luis gets tired there will be a chance!
He touched on his mental approach to the match.
We are more strategic than tactical. We go on philosophy and not on the single game, the idea is to make our things work as well as possible. Now we are not succeeding.
Sarri explained why he stayed silent with the media after the loss to Juventus.
The Turin game, the club asked us not to comment on it and we follow the directions. The Champions League is another story, it’s the most important club competition, an honour and a pleasure to be in it, as it must be to fight on every ball to do your best.
He commented on the team’s ambitions in the competition.
We set ourselves goals from match to match, we only think about tomorrow, finding a positive result is important.
Then you see Celtic and on paper you realise they are the strongest team in the group. We are making all the assumptions now, we just need the maximum for tomorrow.
Finally, Sarri discussed how the Champions League has changed over the years.
Big changes I have not seen, the matches are always complicated, the teams are usually of a very high quality and physicality level, easy matches are impossible to find.
Then over the years the gap between the seven to eight big teams and the others has widened, but the Champions League was difficult even seven to eight years ago.