Serie A Betting: Fiorentina v Lazio - Paolo Bandini's expert preview

Fiorentina 2.15  The Draw 3.25  Lazio 3.50

Lazio need to grow up. That might seem like a surprising assessment for a team boasting one of the oldest first-team squads in Serie A – one whose starting XI to face Milan last week averaged out at over 30-years-old. But that was the message from their manager Vladimir Petkovic following a 1-1 draw against Panathinaikos in the Europa League on Thursday night. 

“We are missing the killer instinct - we always had the ball, but we didn’t have enough hunger to win the match,” said Petkovic. “This shows that we are still not mature.”

His team, indeed, had proved their most dangerous when they did not have the ball at all – the goal which put Lazio 1-0 up midway through the first-half arriving courtesy of the Panathinaikos defender  Giourkas Seitaridis. The Greek team’s goalkeeper, Orestis Karnezis, had run out of his area to retrieve a ball and play it to Seitaridis; the latter, in a moment of surreal and comic confusion, promptly passed it into his own net. 

If Lazio otherwise appeared toothless up front, then that had much to do with a notable – and, indeed, veteran – absentee. Miroslav Klose was the team’s leading scorer last season with 12 goals and has assumed that same status again in the early part of the new season, notching six in eight games. His replacement up front on Thursday, Sergio Floccari, is simply not of the same calibre.

The reasons for Klose’s absence were shrouded in mystery. He had been included on the initial squad list for the game, only for it to emerge on Wednesday that he would not be travelling with his team-mates to Athens after all – but instead making a flight to Munich. The club cited personal reasons, but journalists’ suspicions that he might be carrying some sort of injury were later confirmed. 

"Klose needs to rest,” said Petkovic afterwards. “He has had a little problem but I hope to have him back for Sunday. It is up to the medical staff to give updates on his health, but we can say that he is in doubt for Fiorentina.”

In another interview he struck a more upbeat note, suggesting he hoped to have everyone fit for Sunday’s game (at time of writing Stefano Mauri’s status is also uncertain), but for now it is a question of wait and see. Plainly, having Klose available would make a huge difference to Lazio’s prospects against a greatly improved Fiorentina team.

Last season was a dark one indeed for the Viola, who not only flirted with relegation but developed a reputation as one of the most disharmonious clubs in the division. The lasting image of that campaign was of their then manager, Delio Rossi, taking a swing at one of his own players – Adem Ljajic – in the dugout during a home draw with Novara.

That has now changed – the club overhauling its squad in the summer as well as appointing Vincenzo Montella as manager. After eight games they sit sixth in Serie A, just three behind Lazio. They will be missing a key player of their own this weekend, with David Pizarro suspended, but hope to recover Alberto Aquilani from injury to play in his stead. It would be the former Liverpool man’s first start of the season. 

Such question marks around each team’s starting XI somewhat blur the betting judgements. If Klose starts then he is the obvious choice in the scorer’s market – at 6.25 to score first – though Hernanes, who has five goals this season, is also worth considering at 5.00 to score anytime. If Klose does start and you would like a longer-odds punt, then consider Lazio to win even with a one-goal handicap at 7.30.  They have scored three goals in half of their league games this season.

My own suspicion, though, is that this one will finish as a draw – which is priced reasonably at 3.20. 

Score prediction: Fiorentina 1-1 Lazio at 6.50.