Lazio’s Im­mo­bile-iza­tion sets stage for cru­cial clash at In­ter

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS | SOCCER - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Mi­lan

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.

Get­ting picky

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.

Ciro Im­mo­bile

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