S.S. Lazio, founded in 1900 by nine Roman athletes in the Eternal City’s Piazza della Libertà, have been a significant force in the history of Italian Football. Twice champions of Italy, winners of six Coppa Italia titles, three Italian Super Cups, a Cup Winners’ Cup and a European Super Cup, the Biancocelesti have been a worthy adversary to the very greatest Italian sides.
The club has a strong Greek connection: the heraldic eagle that sits atop their crest is in honour of the emblem of Zeus, and their traditional sky blue and white colours are a nod to the Greeks’ invention of the Olympic games, the spirit of which Lazio channel as a multi-sports club. In fact, the 44 disciplines that Lazio compete in makes it more diverse than any other club in Europe.
The early 1980s were a difficult time in the club’s history, with point sanctions for illegal betting meaning that they spent a number of seasons in Serie B and the remainder of that decade striving to maintain their top flight status.
However, the arrival of ambitious entrepreneur Sergio Cragnotti in 1992 as president changed the fortunes of the club dramatically, his wealth allowing Lazio to repeatedly break transfer records to bring in Juan Sebastian Veron, Christian Vieri and Hernan Crespo. They regularly challenged for the Scudetto in the subsequent years, and in 2000 Cragnotti’s project came to fruition with an impressive double under Sven-Goran Eriksson with Alessandro Nesta and future Juventus legend Pavel Nedved in the side.
No history of Lazio could be complete without mention of their fierce rivalry with Roma, who they face in the Derby della Capitale: one of the most heated match-ups not just in Italy but worldwide.
Lazio play their home games at the Stadio Olimpico, which they share with A.S Roma and also the Italian national team. It was opened in 1937, and following a renovation carried out for the 2009 Champions League final in which Barcelona sealed a historic treble against Manchester United, it now seats 72,689. Host stadium of the 1960 0lympics amongst other major sporting events, it is now an important Roman monument sitting along the banks of the Tiber.
Despite question marks over whether or not the new signings will be sufficient to mount a campaign on both domestic and European fronts, one thing that Lazio fans will be pleased about is the club’s retention of Federico Marchetti, Antonio Candreva and main playmaker Hernanes despite much speculation over their futures.
The 26-year-old midfielder Candreva scored a sumptuous chip from the penalty spot to beat Iker Casillas in Italy’s Confederations Cup semi final, and will be an important part of the team’s chances in the upcoming campaign.
Hernanes, scorer of 14 goals in all competitions last season, has real star quality and Lazio’s fortunes in many ways rest on him. Fortunately for the Biancocelesti, the 28-year-old, who rose to prominence after being named Brazilian footballer of the year in 2008, has been a consistent performer for the side since his arrival in 2010.
A relative lack of major signings compared to big-spending rivals for the European spaces may see them struggle to keep up, and might also make their Europa League campaign something of a trial with a lack of squad depth.
Former Anderlecht captain Lucas Biglia seems an excellent signing, and 20-year-old Felipe Anderson is highly rated, but further additions Vinicius, Brayan Perea, Diego Novaretti and Josip Elez are relatively unknown propositions.
The enigmatic Mauro Zarate has departed, while defender Modibo Diakite has left to join Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland.
Vladimir Petkovic has embarked on his second season in charge this year after delighting the fans with silverware at his first attempt: a Coppa Italia title won against derby rivals Roma. After the unexpected success of taking his former club Bellinzona to the 2008 Swiss Cup final, the Bosnian struggled to achieve similar glory in the next few years at Young Boys and Samsunspor. However, the attack-minded 48-year-old did impress at his most recent club FC Sion, who he saved from seemingly certain relegation.