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The Serie A side have an excellent record at their home ground and look well placed to take advantage of Marseille’s recent downturn in form.
Lazio to Win and Over 1.5 Goals (+115)
When Lazio fell behind to Inter on Saturday, their fans must have feared the worst. The Nerazzurri are the defending champions in Serie A, after all, and memories of Lazio’s 3-0 defeat by Bologna before the international break were still fresh in the mind. Ivan Perisic’s penalty in the 12th minute left Lazio with a mountain to climb against opponents who had barely skipped a beat under their new manager Simone Inzaghi, who had spent the previous five years in charge of the Biancocelesti.
Yet Lazio rallied in the second half, and when the referee’s whistle sounded for the last time it was their supporters who were celebrating. A penalty from Ciro Immobile had leveled the scores shortly after the hour mark before goals from Felipe Anderson and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic brought Lazio all three points. It was their fourth win in their fifth home game of the campaign, and one which will have left the players full of confidence ahead of the visit of Marseille on Thursday.
Maurizio Sarri has wasted little time in getting his ideas across at the Stadio Olimpico. The former Napoli, Chelsea and Juventus head coach has a clearly defined style of play based on possession, short passing circuits, and a 4-3-3 formation. We are already seeing this approach in action. At the time of writing Lazio have completed more short passes per 90 minutes than any other team in Serie A, and only Napoli have averaged more possession.
There have nevertheless been a few teething problems, particularly away from home – Lazio have been beaten by Galatasaray, Bologna, and AC Milan on the road. Yet that is to be expected in Sarri’s first season at the helm, and he will back himself to iron out some of those deficiencies as the campaign wears on.
Jorge Sampaoli returned to European soccer in February when he agreed to take over at Marseille following the departure of Andre Villas-Boas. The 61-year-old has spent most of his career in South America, including spells in charge of the Chile and Argentina national teams – in between which he was the manager of Sevilla in La Liga for a season.
Sampaoli’s time with Argentina did not go particularly well, and it was no surprise to see him dismissed after a last-16 exit at the 2018 World Cup. He subsequently had spells at the helm of Brazilian duo Santos and Atletico Mineiro, but a return to a major European league was always the aim. After finishing a distant fifth in Ligue 1 last time out, there is a genuine belief that Marseille can crack the top four this season.
Some fans were daring to dream of even more than that after Marseille won four of their first five league games, but back-to-back defeats by Lens and Lille punctured some of that enthusiasm. Marseille did bounce back to beat Lorient at the weekend but draws with Lokomotiv Moscow and Galatasaray in the Europa League leave them under a certain amount of pressure to at least avoid defeat in Rome on Thursday.
But with the derby against Paris Saint-Germain to come on Sunday, there is a danger that Marseille’s focus might be elsewhere. Most OM fans would accept a defeat by Lazio if they were guaranteed to beat their arch-rivals at the Velodrome. That is not how soccer works, of course, but it would only be natural for the PSG game to be at the back of the Marseille players’ minds.
At their best, Sampaoli’s Marseille are a team built in their manager’s image: intense, aggressive, and full of dynamism and attitude. They have blown several opponents away this season, and their commitment to playing on the front foot is much appreciated by arguably the most passionate supporters in French soccer.
Marseille still have a tendency to blow hot and cold, though, and they are not yet able to impose their style on every match they contest. An away game at Lazio will be a challenge in that regard, with the home team’s patient possession likely to take the sting out of Marseille’s high-tempo play. The visitors to the Olimpico will look to press high and disrupt Lazio’s build-up, but the Italian outfit could find themselves with ample space in advanced areas if they succeed in cutting through Marseille’s press.
There should be no shortage of goals in a meeting of two attack-minded teams, but Lazio will fancy their chances of edging this European clash. Back a home win and over 1.5 goals.
|Lazio vs Marseille Information
|Lazio vs Marseille
|Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy
|Thursday, 21 October 2021, 12.45 PM EDT
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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