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Match Preview: AC Milan vs SS Lazio

What to expect when you are expecting to play Lazio

Torino FC v SS Lazio - Serie A Photo by Matteo Bottanelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Here we go, matchday thirty. AC Milan faces off against title contenders SS Lazio in a pivotal match for both. For Lazio, they are trying to continue their assault on Juventus FC and the scudetto. For Milan, they need a win to bounce back from the disappointment of drawing SPAL 1913.

The Typical SS Lazio Formation and Tactics

Lazio plays a 3-5-2. Their structure and tactics are not incredibly innovative, but it maximizes the individuals on Lazio. Both wingbacks shuttle between the back three and the attack all game. They provide width and crossing support to the attackers. Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinković-Savić will both pop up in the box, however, the Spaniard is the much more attacking of the two. Milinković-Savić plays as a box-to-box midfielder who has perfected a jack-o- all-trades style of soccer. He is their key and best player.

Generally, Ciro Immobile plays as the primary shooter in the two striker system. His fox-in-the-box style of play has suited Lazio perfectly. Joaquín Correa and Felipe Ciacedo have profited from the Italian man’s cunning awareness in attack.

Defensively, Lazio holds four players back when they attack to maintain shape. Their defensive midfielder and center back trio can be exposed by quick counter-attacks but are disciplined enough to contain most teams. Francesco Acerbi has become the unsung hero for Lazio this season. He has been progressive with his passing and has helped the capital side break from presses all season.

How the Numbers Talk About Lazio

The Biancocelesti love to receive penalties. They have the most in the top five European leagues by two. A Juventus fan has said before that if the luck Lazio has had this season were to happen to Juventus, then everyone would be screaming about match-fixing. Receiving a penalty every other game in Serie A is astounding. It cannot be understated how much this has inflated the team’s success. Fifteen penalties add anywhere between nine to twelve points per season. I do not think there would be a title race without this incredible accumulation of penalties for Lazio.

However, Lazio has still played well. They have a positive 22.25 xG differential (xG for minus xG against) and are tenth in the top five leagues in xG created. They take the twelfth most dangerous shots on average in the top five leagues as well. Their star striker, Immobile, has 29 goals on 21.44 xG and 8 assists on 5.56 xA (11 goals have come from penalties). He has generated the second-most total xG in the top five leagues (behind Robert Lewandowski) and is tenth for xG per 90 for forwards. Only Cristiano Ronaldo is better every ninety minutes in Italy. The positive for Milan is that he is not playing. However, these numbers were still facilitated by Lazio, so continue to be afraid of their midfield (and the rest of the team).

Defensively, Lazio can be porous. They are fourth in the league in xG against, with 35.57, and are the third most dribbled past team. Because of how expansive the team is, the defense can be exposed with fast counter-attacks. Their other defensive issue is that the midfield can abandon their defensive assignments. Milinković-Savić is typically active all game, but Alberto and their defensive midfielder can struggle to support the Serbian man. They have lost a few midfield battles this season, most notably the last seventy-five minutes against Atalanta B.C.

Thoughts On The Match

This is a difficult fixture. Lazio is trying to win a title and have been poor since the restart. They need a statement game soon. Hopefully, Milan takes advantage of their inconsistent form.

No Immobile means that Lazio will start Correa and most likely Danilo Cataldi (who is not good). Correa has begun to hit his potential this season. He was dangerous last year, but he has now become more menacing. Do not underestimate him. The rest of the Lazio lineup should match what they have been playing in the last few games.

For Milan, this is not a game for the midfield to play poorly. Ismaël Bennacer, Franck Kessié, and Hakan Çalhanoğlu will have a tall task, however, they have all played well since the restart. Controlling the center of the field will pay dividends as the match progresses. Failing to contain Lazio could lead to a fairly lopsided Milan loss. The Rossoneri needs to attack the Biancocelesti. Sitting back and letting the game come to Milan will lead to a defeat.

Also, do not give up a penalty.