Serie A 2020/21: Lazio vs Juventus – tactical preview
Both Lazio and Juventus haven’t been as convincing as they were expected to be in the start of the new Serie A season. While Juventus’ uncertainty could be explained with the new coach and the absence of key players, Lazio’s underperformance lays deeper than that.
While both teams are split between the domestic league and UEFA Champions League, Juve seem to slowly gain back confidence and show better results, despite still having a lot of uncertainty around their style of play.
Lazio, on the other hand, have displayed some poor defensive performances that dropped them to the 10th position in the table and are threatening their title ambitions.
The Biancocelesti are struggling with the absence of some of their regular starters which makes their task even more difficult, but Juventus have some players missing too, and if Lazio manage to exploit their areas, they might challenge Juve.
Formations and current form
Simone Inzaghi hasn’t experimented with new formations this term and religiously sticks to the 3-5-2, although it couldn’t quite bring him the achievements it did last season. The three-man backline looks to be slowly taking a toll on him, and the team seem way more vulnerable defensively than last season. The team could not balance off their performance and compensate for their defensive flaws with their attacking efforts.
With Ciro Immobile and Thomas Strakosha being doubtful for the game, they might fail to find the balance against Juventus too, being extremely vulnerable at the back but also lacking their key man upfront.
Andrea Pirlo still tests out different set-ups with his team, but it seems that he is navigating towards the 4-4-2 only doing some touch-ups here and there when needed.
Despite conceding way fewer goals than Lazio, the Bianconerri are far from safe at the back. Their pressing struggles and individual mistakes lead to their opponents, creating chances way more often than they should be.
The next sections of the analysis are going to explore how both teams could take advantage of the opposition’s insecurities.
The wing-backs’ absence/presence could be crucial for Lazio
As mentioned, Lazio have a huge issue with doubtful players for the upcoming fixture and having both of their wing-backs in that list isn’t making their life easier. Manuel Lazzari and Djavan Anderson are the players who could make a difference both with their presence and their absence. Lazzari’s contribution on the right could be very useful against Juventus. Since Danilo overtook the left side, Juventus definitely became less vulnerable out there but by using Lazzari’s dribbling abilities to advance the ball through the wings, Lazio could increase their attacking efficiency and exploit Juve’s defensive line better.
One of them, or both being available, could have a huge impact on Lazio’s performance. Although the team relies more on their attacking actions on the left and in the central areas, Lazzari could help them threaten Juventus on the right too and exploit their vulnerable area. Even in case, Inzaghi doesn’t want to rely on Lazzari as a starter; he could be used as a successful late sub in efforts to change the dynamics and provide additional threat if they need to.
Not having a suitable player on that position will not only decrease their chances in attack but will expose them defensively even more. As mentioned, Lazio experience some defensive struggles and Lazzari’s absence would only make things worse, especially if Pirlo replicates his Champions League formations with three players upfront. Having Federico Chiesa on the left-wing while missing their regular wing-back could be crucial for the Bianconerri’s defensive efforts and might expose them to some dangerous situations. Adding that Lazio most frequently lose the ball in midfield, this could be the easiest way for Juventus to expose their opponents.
Juventus need to use the wings smartly
Using a 4-3-3 formation might not be a bad idea for Juventus. Although we are more likely to see two men in attack, relying on three forward players and having a better coverage on the wings could help the champions in taking advantage of all of Lazio’s defensive flaws.
Having an attacker to exploit the wide areas in the final third and cross the ball frequently will increase Juve’s chances of stretching Lazio’s defence and exploiting the box more efficiently. It might also decrease the chances of being caught offside, which could be helpful for Juventus. They are caught offside quite frequently lately due to their tendency of attacking through the central areas and the opposition defences staying in line and playing the offside. With attacking through the wide areas, Juve might avoid this as Lazio’s defending in the box won’t be so well organised.
When it comes to Lazio’s actions in the defensive third, they have been the most vulnerable defending on the wings in their last few games. They failed in a lot of their defensive duels there in the wide areas and gave the opposition an advantage which could be another benefit of employing the 4-3-3 formation. Another benefit of the front three could be having more bodies and increasing the high press in efforts to recover the ball while still in the final third.
Although it could be risky, playing both Chiesa and Dejan Kulusevski could help the team in executing this strategy well.
If Pirlo decides to stick to his 4-4-2, he might get stuck in choosing his starting duo. Paulo Dybala is already fit and ready to contribute, but Alvaro Morata has displayed a decent performance since his arrival. He needs to choose smartly, and choosing the right players to stay on the bench could be crucial. Not only because he’ll need a strong performer with smart movement and good finishing throughout the game, but because he should decide who could make a change off the bench if things go wrong.
Lazio’s pressing approach could be key
If Pirlo does go for the 4-4-2 set-up, Lazio’s press could play a huge role in their defensive efforts and troubling Juve’s build-up. The Biancocelesti employed a very successful pressing strategy against Borussia Dortmund in Champions League. They managed to block the passing lanes smartly and press quite well in the central areas. This approach might be beneficial against Juventus since it will force them out wide, making it easier for Lazio to isolate the attacking duo better. As mentioned, the Bianconerri use the central channels quite frequently, so being unable to find pockets and pass the ball to the forwards would affect their attacking efficiency.
Of course, this also possesses a risk for Lazio since Juventus are among the teams that frequently rely on long balls. Meaning that their pressing strategy might not only force the Juve players in the directions, they have attempted. It might force Juve in sending long balls behind the defence and exploit it that way.
Juventus need to be more aggressive
The Turin grand haven’t been very convincing defensively so far, lacking aggression in their pressing approach. They often fail in applying the needed pressure on the ball carrier and the possible receivers respectively, which leads to dropping way back in their own third and often being forced to defend one on one. Juventus often allow too much midfield space to their opponents which results in them being able to pin them back. Their defending is often quite passive both team-wise and individually, which gives the opposition more freedom to create chances. Being more aggressive in their pressing would force Lazio in seeking different options to build-up, which could be difficult if they don’t play with their regular starting XI.
There’s a player that could be very useful for Lazio, especially in their current state. Sergej Milinković-Savić could be key in the team’s efforts to bypass the press. Due to his movement in different areas, he could be the pivot in midfield who could equally well finish the attacks, especially if Immobile is not playing again. His positioning could help the team in opening the passing lanes and progressing the ball successfully.
His responsibilities in the absence of the other regular starters are huge, which means that he might not be able to play on his potential since he won’t have the freedom he is used to.
Both coaches have to make important tactical choices not only prior to the game but also in-game and having in mind the teams’ current form the in-game changes might turn out as the most important ones on the road to the three points. Juventus are in a better position on paper, having most of their players fit and available, but Lazio’s unpredictable line-up could be turned into an advantage by the Biancocelesti.