Can Lazio take advantage of Juventus upheaval in Italian Super Cup?

Can Lazio take advantage of Juventus upheaval in Italian Super Cup?
From ESPN - August 12, 2017

Lazio's best season since they won the title at the turn of the century still has not been enough to persuade manager Simone Inzaghi to talk his team up as a contender this year. Last season, the Biancocelesti matched the 21 wins achieved by Sven-Goran Eriksson's Scudetto winners in 2000 to finish in fifth place, but nobody has them in the conversation for the title this time around. Behind Inzaghi's argument is realism rather than expectation management.

"We will have to wait another 30 or 40 years to have another Leicester and it wo not be in Italy," he told La Repubblica this week. "They will have to either distribute the revenue more equitably. Maybe new privately owned stadia can make a difference. Otherwise in a 38 or 40-game season the same teams will always win."

Juventus and the two Milan clubs have passed the Scudetto between themselves for the last 16 seasons. But as Sunday's curtain raiser, the Italian Super Cup, nears on the horizon, there is great curiosity to see whether Lazio can provide the league with some hope and give credence to the theory that Leonardo Bonucci represents the biggest loss Juventus have suffered in the last six years when he chose to join Milan -- bigger than Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Alvaro Morata.

"Juventus have lost something now they are without Bonucci," Inzaghi argued. "The only thing that bugs me is he has gone to Milan and will strengthen a team that finished behind us last year."

Inzaghi has also had to come to terms with his captain Lucas Biglia leaving for the Rossoneri. Lazio have replaced him with another Lucas -- Liverpool veteran Lucas Leiva, whose initiation has already made him a dressing room favourite -- but the painful exits at Lazio are not over. Rome's Stadio Olimpico is not just the setting for the Super Cup, it will also serve as a stage for Juventus to hold more talks with Lazio regarding the 30 million transfer of another of Inzaghi's star players: Keita Balde Diao.

Juventus are confident of landing the Senegal international, who has reportedly had an agreement with the Old Lady for some time. Lazio have had bigger offers for Keita but will likely have to accept less than what they could get from Milan or Inter because of the player's wish to play at the Allianz Stadium. Otherwise Keita will walk into the Old Lady's arms for free when his current deal expires next summer.

But that's just one of the subplots behind Sunday's game. Staying with the transfer market, Lazio centre-back Stefan de Vrij is yet to extend his contract and has long been mentioned as a possible replacement for Bonucci. Reports out of Juventus at the moment though is they are in no hurry to sign a successor for their ex-"future captain" and might not even address it this summer.

That of course would not be the case if Juventus still planned to play a back three. But the move to a back four in January, with only two centre-backs required to start, has left Juventus confident they are covered, particularly with Mattia Caldara due to join from Atalanta in 2018. Why sign a big name now only to block his pathway later?

Some fans would like to see Juventus do it anyway and their reasoning is understandable. Andrea Barzagli, for instance, is 36; Giorgio Chiellini and Mehdi Benatia have hardly been injury free over the last few years. A lot of responsibility falls on the shoulders of Daniele Rugani in what promises to be his first full season as a starter at Juventus.

For what it's worth Chiellini does not necessarily think Bonucci's sale is a bad thing. "We are definitely losing something in terms of quality," he told La Stampa. "But we are going to improve in other respects. We will gain in physicality and marking."


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