Juventus
    21.11.2014 18:18 - in: Serie A S

    Lazio in the spotlight

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    Founded in 1900, the two-time Serie A winners contest the fierce Derby della Capitale with arch-rivals Roma and are managed by Bianconeri alumnus Stefano Pioli

    Club

    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 proved 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 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.

    Lazio’s last piece of silverware came during the 2012/13 campaign, beating Juventus en-route to the final where a slender 1-0 win over arch-rivals Roma – with whom they contest the fierce Derby della Capitale – ensured their sixth Coppa Italia triumph thanks to Senad Lulic’s finish.

    Stadium

    Lazio play their home games at the Stadio Olimpico, which they share with A.S Roma and also the Italian national team.

    The venue 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, 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.

    Transfer Activity

    As it was at the beginning of the 2013/14 campaign, Lazio opted against making wholesale changes during this year’s transfer window but did bring in a number of notable acquisitions.

    Dutch centre-back Stefan de Vrij arrives from Feyenoord after four successful seasons with the Rotterdam-based outfit. The 22-year-old displayed leadership qualities when he was named club captain in 2012 and also starred in his country’s semi-final run at this year’s World Cup in Brazil, scoring in the Group B opener against holders Spain.

    Versatile Dusan Basta signs from Serie A rivals Udinese on a four-year deal. The experienced right-back, who can also play further forward down that same flank, won the league and cup double whilst at Red Star Belgrade in his domestic Serbia and brings a plethora of experience to the Lazio backline.

    Marco Parolo ends his two-year stint with Parma after transferring to the Biancocelesti during the summer. Now a regular in the Azzurri squad, Lazio have added a dynamic and attack-minded individual to their ranks who will no doubt go on to establish himself as a fan favourite at the Stadio Olimpico.  

    Filip Djordjevic makes up the final major signing of Lazio’s transfer window, joining from Ligue 1 side Nantes. Well-known for his physicality up front, the 27-year-old has proved himself to be a handful for defences up and down the country by already bagging six goals in his first 11 appearances at the club.

    Going the other way, 18-year-old Joseph Minala has joined Serie B outfit Bari on a season-long loan, Giuseppe Biava has signed for Atalanta on a free transfer and veteran centre-back André Dias has left the club following the expiration of his contract.

    Current Team

    Club captain Stefano Mauri is now in his ninth campaign with the Biancocelesti having joined them back in 2006. The 34-year-old is a seasoned professional and has made over 200 appearances in all competitions, winning three trophies in the process. Mauri loves to pop up with the odd goal now and then, and already has three to his name so far this campaign.

    Thirty-one-year-old shotstopper Federico Marchetti began his professional career with Juventus’ inter-city rivals Torino in 2002 and has featured on 11 occasions for the Italian national side too. He has been Lazio’s number one since joining the club from Cagliari over five years ago.

    Versatile defender Stefan Radu continues to be a stalwart for Lazio since signing from Dinamo Bucarest in 2008. The former Romanian international is able to play either at left-back or in the centre and captained the Biancocelesti during the 2011/12 campaign.

    Argentine international Lucas Biglia normally acts as the defensive shield in front of Lazio’s backline. Adept with his ability to play a killer pass, the 28-year-old completed 120 minutes in La Albiceleste’s 1-0 World Cup final defeat to Germany this year and also won four Belgian top flight titles with former employers Anderlecht.

    Former Bianconeri midfielder Antonio Candreva continues to earn rave reviews for his performances with the Rome-based outfit. Due to his tactical versatility, the 27-year-old – who spent a solitary season with Juventus in 2010 – can be deployed in a variety of positions. His dynamism, pace and expert crossing ability see him earmarked as the man to watch in Saturday’s contest.

    Spanish forward Keita Baldé Diao rose through the Barcelona youth ranks before joining Lazio in 2011. Last season saw the 19-year-old make his breakthrough into the first team where he scored five times in 25 appearances. Diao possesses blistering pace and loves to shoot from distance.

    Evergreen striker Miroslav Klose continues to perform to the best of his abilities, form that belies his elder years. The German broke Brazilian Ronaldo’s record for amount of goals at the World Cup finals during the summer (16) and ended his career with Die Mannschaft in the most spectacular way: by winning the planet's most sought-after trophy.

    Manager

    Former Bianconeri centre-back Stefano Pioli – who spent three years as a player with Juventus during the mid-80s – replaced Edoardo Reja as manager of the Biancocelesti in June 2014.

    A native of Parma, Pioli began his professional career with the Gialloblu before moving to the Old Lady in 1984 where he won one Serie A title, a European Cup, a UEFA Super Cup and the Intercontinental cup during his three-year stint with the club.

    He joined Verona in 1987 ahead of embarking on a six-season career with Fiorentina two years later. During his time with La Viola, Pioli was part of their Serie B-winning side and also bagged a runners-up medal in the 1990 UEFA Cup final.

    Following his time in Tuscany, he spent four years with as many clubs in the lower ebbs of Italian football (Padova, Pistoiese, Fiorenzuola and Colorno) before retiring in 1999.

    Pioli immediately made the step up to management, taking the reins of Bologna’s Allievi Nazionali side and winning the championship in only his second season at the helm.

    2002 saw him become Chievo Primavera’s manager but he only spent a solitary season with the young Mussi Volanti and was appointed head coach of Serie B outfit Salernitana a year later.

    Modena came calling in 2004 before Pioli joined local side Parma at the beginning of the 2006/07 campaign, but a poor run of results saw him sacked the following February with the Crociati down in second-last place.

    From 2007 to 2011, Pioli was named head coach of Grosseto (who he led to a mid-table finish during their inaugural season in Serie B), Piacenza, Sassuolo, Chievo (this time as manager of the first team) and Palermo before joining Bologna.

    During his two-and-a-half campaigns at the helm of the seven-time Serie A winning outfit, he steered the club away from danger twice before being relieved of his managerial duties in January this year.

    Following a disappointing tenth-placed finish and failure to qualify for Europe, Lazio appointed Pioli as Reja’s replacement with the task of lifting the Biancocelesti up the table.

    Lazio currently sit fifth on 19 points, nine behind the Bianconeri, and go into Saturday evening’s contest on the back of a defeat to Empoli.

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