Cagliari vs Lazio
Lazio’s stuttering quest to secure back-to-back Champions League qualifications takes them to Unipol Domus to meet relegation-battling Cagliari.
Conceding only 61 seconds in their trip to the Stadio Olimpico to take on Lazio’s arch-rivals Roma earlier this week resulted in a dreadful 4-0 defeat, Cagliari’s third Serie A loss in a row, which kept them in the relegation zone ahead of this round. Claudio Ranieri’s future is up in the air, even though the ‘Islanders’ trail 17th-placed Udinese by a single point, largely thanks to his side’s notoriously slow match starts. Indeed, Ranieri’s men have netted the opening goal just once in their last ten Serie A games (W2, D2, L6), highlighting the importance of a better start. Nothing less would do against a Lazio side they’ve failed to beat since 2013, going winless in all 17 H2Hs since (D3, L14), including a narrow 1-0 loss in the reverse fixture.
Based on Lazio’s long-standing dominance in this fixture, the upcoming trip to Sardinia seems to be timed to perfection as the visitors hope to bounce back from two consecutive winless league outings (D1, L1). Last weekend’s 3-1 humbling at the hands of Atalanta opened up a five-point gap on a coveted fourth place, intensifying pressure on veteran coach Maurizio Sarri. Since Sarris’ men have blown hot and cold across their last five away league matches (W2, D1, L2), a fifth successive top-flight win at Cagliari is far from a foregone conclusion. But delivering action from the get-go, ‘I Biancocelesti’ had got on the scoresheet inside the opening 25 minutes on three Serie A travels in a row before the abovementioned defeat in Bergamo (W2, D1).