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  03/03/2015: Coppa Italia Preview: Lazio - Napoli
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Lazio host Napoli this Wednesday for the first round of the Coppa Italia semi-final home and away showdown. This is an intriguing match-up on paper and should prove to live up to its hype, with drama right down to the final moments. Napoli was able to reach the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia thanks to a 5-4 penalty victory over Udinese, Lazio squeaked in themselves with a 1-0 win over AC Milan, Lazio were down to ten men for half of that match with Cana being sent off in the 45th minute, the Lucas Biglia penalty shot in the 38th minute prevailed. The second leg will take place on April 8th at the Stadio San Paolo in Napoli, the winner will move on to face either Fiorentina or Juventus, who square off in the other semi-final. Napoli’s most recent result was a 1-0 loss to Torino, thanks to a second half Kamil Glik goal, this should not necessarily be considered a shock defeat as Torino have been playing well and are in good form. Lazio enter this Coppa Italia match against Napoli with three consecutive wins in Serie A, the latest a convincing 3-0 win over Sassuolo, Anderson, Klose and Parolo all found the net.

Pioli has stated in the media he is taking the Coppa Italia very seriously and he will field his strongest players, this will not be a match that will give an opportunity to someone from the Lazio bench who we have not previously see a lot of. Marchetti is a definite in goal for Lazio, he is Pioli’s preference and he brings leadership and exudes confidence behind the Lazio defensive core. Marchetti played very well against Sassuolo making two or three exceptional stops, he will need to be counted on for a similar performance against Napoli. In the centre of defence for Lazio, it will be De Vrij and Maurico, this tandem is beginning to bond together and there appears to be great promise between them. On the right hand side of defence we should see Basta, if he is not healthy enough to go, it is more than possible Cavanda will get the nod from Pioli, he is very impressive when he is given an opportunity, he is always strong and visible. Radu had a physical game against Sassuolo, the elbow he took from Zaza was a firm impact to the chin, he may be rested for the Fiorentina match next Monday, perhaps Braafheid may get a chance to return to the field after returning from his knee injury.

In the centre of the park, Pioli should field his staples of Parolo, Biglia and Cataldi who was impressive against Sassuolo, he is clearly growing in confidence. Ledesma came on late against Sassuolo to replace Biglia, he may also have a role to play against Napoli on Wednesday, Biglia may not be 100% fit. The Lazio attacking core that will start is unknown, Pioli has options for his three final spots with five men to choose from, them being Klose, Keita, Anderson, Mauri and Candreva, a good problem I suppose. I expect to see Klose in the centre of the attack, he did not start against Sassuolo but did come on as a substitute for the final twenty minutes or so. It is impossible for Felipe Anderson not to start, he is returning to his blistering form and was part of two of Lazio three goals against Sassuolo, his game winning first goal for Lazio was truly a world class strike. On the other wing for Lazio it will probably be Candreva, he again did not start against Sassuolo and came on as a late substitution, perhaps Pioli was looking ahead. This means that Mauri may not start, the only other way for Pioli to fit four of these five attacking players into the starting line-up would be to remove Cataldi from midfield and play a 4-2-3-1, Keita would still be the odd man out for a starting birth. This truly is an exciting match up for Lazio and I fully expect them to leave their hearts on the field trying to make amends for the previous 1-0 loss this season to Napoli in league play. A return to the Coppa Italia finals is what all Laziali hope for, a good performance here is a step in the right direction. Good luck boys!
Author: Michael Petricca
 
 
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