SS Lazio has struggled to get in to the Champions League in recent years, and haven’t reached Europe’s finest competition since 2007 when they were knocked out at the group stage. They have qualified for the Europa League, however, with some consistency but it is the Champions League were they want to be, at least because of Roma’s revival in the last couple of years. Now, with less than two months left of the season, it looks like the club will make a return to the top, largely thanks to the impressive form of the Brazilian winger Felipe Anderson.
Felipe Anderson joined Lazio from Brazilian club Santos in June 2013, following in the footsteps of the one year older Neymar in making the move from South America to Europe. Like his former teammate, Felipe is an entertainer. With his great dribbling skills, impressive speed and devastating acceleration he leaves defenders chasing his shadow as he marches on with the ball in total control at his feet ready to take on the next opponent. He’s got a great shot on him too, with either foot, as he demonstrated with his brilliant left-footed strike against fierce capital rivals AS Roma in the Eternal Derby a couple of months ago. During that game he showcased all of his talents. Lazio’s opener was all Felipe, as he picked the ball up inside his own half before initiating a run into Roma’s half where he eventually found captain Stefano Mauri with a deliciously lofted pass over Daniele De Rossi, and Mauri finished emphatically to give Lazio the lead. It was a brilliant assist from the Brazilian, and only a few minutes later Mauri returned the favour. The Italian back-heeled the ball to Felipe whose left-footed strike beat Morgan De Sanctis at his near post and put Lazio 2-0 up. In the end, a two-goal-comeback from Roma and Francesco Totti ensured a point for the Giallorosso, but Felipe Anderson had shown the World what he can do.
Throughout the season, Felipe has shown himself to be Lazio’s go-to-guy with nine Serie A goals and seven assists to his name, including world class goals against both Internazionale and Sampdoria. The Brazilian is not dissimilar to the version of Cristiano Ronaldo we saw in the Portuguese final years at Old Trafford for Manchester United when he developed into a goal-scoring machine who still entertained with his speed and trickery down the flanks. Bigger clubs will without doubt circle around Felipe Anderson this summer but Lazio would be smart to resist the money and focus on continuing the building of this formidable team.
Because that really is the case, Lazio is far from a one-man-team. Starting from the back, Italy’s number two behind Gianluigi Buffon, Federico Marchetti, is a commanding goalkeeper who marshals a defence made up of Dusan Basta or Luis Pedro Cavanda at right back, Dutch World Cup sensation Stefan De Vrij and January signing Mauricio as the two centre-halves with Stefan Radu or Senad Lulic at left back. Ahead of them is a very solid midfield double pivot of Argentinian World Cup finalist Lucas Biglia and Italian international Marco Parolo. They have eight Serie A goals between them, with Parolo netting six times. They provide the base for the three creators to roam around and create. Felipe is played to the left, with the equally brilliant Antonio Candreva to the right. Candreva has impressed for Gli Azzurri when called upon and has been a consistent performer in Serie A for years. This season he’s got six goals and seven assists in the league. Between these two, the Lazio captain, club legend Stefano Mauri plays in a trequartista role where he gets the most out of his genius. Eight goals has he scored in Serie A, including the aforementioned derby goal. These three set up the chances the chosen striker out of Miroslav Klose or Filip Djordjevic usually converts. They have 15 goals between them, eight for the German and seven for the Serbian.
All in all, they make for a solid team defensively with an entertaining and extremely creative attack. Head Coach Stefano Pioli has done very well so far, and with the likes of Felipe Anderson performing at a very high level, Lazio look destined for a return to Europe’s premier competition once again.