Lazio’s Immobile-ization sets stage for crucial clash at Inter
Lazio striker Ciro Immobile said he is staying in Rome as his team heads to shaky Inter Milan looking to underline its status as a potential Champions League candidate.
The year’s final round of Serie A matches are played in midweek without leader Juventus and AC Milan, who will contest the Italian Super Cup in Doha on Friday.
It gives Roma, Lazio and Napoli — all within eight points of Juve — the chance to make up some ground before the resumption of hostilities in January.
Third-place Lazio can leapfrog city rival Roma into second spot with a win at Inter in Wednesday’s only match.
Italy international Immobile’s solid form since joining following Euro 2016 has attracted interest from Paris Saint-Germain, according to reports.
But after brief spells at Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund, Immobile is not quite ready to leave Lazio.
“One day, maybe. But I’m feeling good at Lazio and I don’t feel the need to change” said Immobile.
“I’m 26 years old, and for me it’s a decisive period. I’ve decided to put my head down and work hard.
“The coach has spoiled me since I came. He really wanted me here and he’s put me at the center of his plans.”
Immobile hasn’t scored in Lazio’s last six league encounters since a 2-1 win over Sassuolo in October, but coach Simone Inzaghi, the brother of retired former Milan striker Filippo, isn’t be ruffled.
He gave Immobile his backing before a 3-1 win against Fiorentina on Monday, when the striker missed several chances to take his league goal tally for the season into double figures.
Lazio, and especially versatile Brazilian forward Felipe Anderson, was on fire at Stadio Olimpico and Inter coach Stefano Pioli should be worried as he prepares to face his old team.
Despite leading Lazio to a credible third-place finish in 2015, he was fired in April following a 3-1 derby loss to Roma.
Stuck in seventh, 15 points from the top, Inter’s bid for European soccer in its first season under Chinese owners is already compromised.
Off the pitch, Inter, which was European champion six years ago when Jose Mourinho led it to a glorious treble, seems to be in continual turmoil.
Two months after striker Mauro Icardi was forced to reprint his autobiography following a highly-publicized dispute with hardline ultra fans, who alleged the Argentine was a liar, the Inter captain was in the crosshairs again on Monday.
Icardi was reportedly the target when former Manchester City forward Stevan Jovetic, who has played only 67 minutes this term, claimed key players at the club “pick the team”.
Club sporting director Piero Ausilio responded on Sunday.
“If three coaches haven’t used him, it’s undoubtedly due to technical and tactical reasons,” he said.
Icardi, 12 goals ties him for top spot in Serie A scoring with Roma’s Edin Dzeko and Torino’s Andrea Belotti, but Inter is still a work-inprogress.
Pioli will be reshuffling his midfield in the absence of suspended Portugal international Joao Mario and Brazilian Felipe Melo, who are serving onematch bans.
Napoli is the favorite when it visits Fiorentina on Thursday, days after a 5-3 victory against Torino that saw Belgium’s Dries Mertens score four to take his season total to 10.
Elsewhere, Roma will be without defender Kostas Manolas and midfielders Radja Nainggolan and Daniele De Rossi for Chievo’s visit.
The trio picked up injuries in a 1-0 loss to Juventus on Sunday.
Bosnian forward Dzeko could also be missing due to a bout of flu.