26 August 2006

Messina - Lazio preview

Tomorrow at 20:30 CET Lazio takes on Messina at the Stadio San Filippo in the city once better-known as Zancle. This will be the biancocelesti's third match in eight days as they conclude their participation in the whirlwind event that is the first phase of the Coppa Italia. If you take a look at the official bracket, you will see that this match pits 17 seed Messina against 16 seed Lazio. But we need to remember that these numbers are amazingly deceiving.

The seeds for this year's Coppa have been taken from the post-Calciopoli Serie A table, which indeed puts Lazio at 16 and Messina at 17. But when the season finished on May 14, Lazio was in the 6th position (going to UEFA) and Messina was in the 18th position (not avoiding relegation). Have things changed since then? There are two answers. Yes: the Serie A classifica has been turned upside down, shaken, and beaten to death by our good friend Mr. Palazzi. No: Lazio and Messina are still teams of approximately the strength they were in May.

Lazio has only lost two big players (with the Oddo fiasco still pending), Liverani and Di Canio. Rocchi and Pandev have stepped up for us and are striking well, as long as you don't send Tommaso to the penalty spot. Liverani and his poor-boy lisp will be missed, but neo-biancocelesti Ledesma and Mutarelli are strong at midfield. For the Sicilian side, they have given back five loan players and sold two more to Juve (who can finally field 11 players now, I think), and their acquisitions have been made mostly from Serie B teams...a wash at best.

And finally, history. In the Serie A 05-06 season, the meetings between the two teams resulted in Lazio 1-0 Messina and Messina 1-1 Lazio. Yes, this is proof that Lazio can sometimes struggle against weaker teams (and Wednesday's match against C1 outfit Monza Brianza was just further evidence of that). It will be more difficult than it should be for the biancocelesti on Sunday, but I think they can advance to the round that their 6th-place finish should have put them in to begin with.

Final notes for Lazio: Siviglia is disqualified from this match for consecutive yellow cards. He will be missed, but Cribari is called up for this match so the defense shouldn't be too shaky.

Projected lineup:

Oddo, Cribari, Stendardo, Zauri
Belleri, Mutarelli, Mudingayi, Mauri
Rocchi, Pandev

Prediction: Messina 1-2 Lazio. Goals by Pandev and Diakite (subbed for Rocchi)

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