Lazio hope for year-end cheer

Struggling Rome club face buoyant league leaders Inter Milan in Italy's Serie A.

    Lazio's Goran Pandev has endured the silent treatment after requesting a transfer [GALLO/GETTY]
    Lazio have endured a miserable start to the Serie A season and their form is unlikely to improve when they meet league leaders Inter Milan this weekend.

    The Rome-based club sit three points above the relegation zone in 15th place with coach Davide Ballardini just about hanging on to his job.

    Striker Mauro Zarate reflected on a poor season so far:

    "The end of 2009 has been horrible, disastrous,'' he said.

    "In 2010 we shall see a different Lazio. "I don't want to hear talk about Serie B. I want to tell the fans to stay calm and trust us.''

    All top three teams in Italy will be looking to bounce back from recent disappointing results last week when they play their final matches of 2009 this weekend.

    Defending champions Inter Milan lead the league with 36 points, five ahead of AC Milan. Juventus are third with 30 points.

    Internal wrangles

    Lazio's Goran Pandev is likely to be absent once again from his side's clash at the San Siro but the Macedonia forward's long exile could be about to end.

    Pandev has been frozen out at the Rome club after requesting a transfer in the close season but he may be free to choose a new side in January if legal action to free him from his contract is successful.

    A ruling is expected soon.

    Lazio looked like they might be able to cope without Pandev and midfielder Cristian Ledesma, who is involved in a similar wrangle, when they beat Inter to win the Italian Super Cup in August.

    Instead they have badly missed both players. Last weekend's 1-0 win over Genoa was only Lazio's third in Serie A this season.

    Pandev would be especially useful this weekend with Argentine forward Zarate suspended.

    "It's a shame that Goran isn't playing," Zarate said.

    "Without him and Ledesma we are weaker. But these are decisions for the club to make."

    Inter Milan could be a destination for Pandev as they are looking for an extra striker to cover for Samuel Eto'o while the Cameroonian is at the African Nations Cup next month.

    Mourinho - never one to be out of the spotlight [Reuters]
    Special one

    Inter, who drew 1-1 at Atalanta last Sunday, want to turn the spotlight back to on-field matters following two weeks in which coach Jose Mourinho has dominated the headlines.

    Mourinho was sent to the stands during Inter's 2-1 loss to Juventus at the start of December.

    "After the sending-off, I decided not to speak to anyone,'' Mourinho said.

    "And for someone like me who says what he thinks, to not speak is a little strange.''

    AC Milan travel to Fiorentina following a 2-0 loss at home to Palermo. The defeat ended an unbeaten run in the league that stretched back to the end of September.

    "At the moment the team is doing well, apart from the last loss to Palermo,'' Milan defender Kakha Kaladze said.

    "It is never pleasant to lose at home, especially 2-0. But despite that, it is a good time for us.

    "We are second in the table and at the start of the season no one would have thought we would be there.''

    Serie A fixtures

    Saturday December 19

     Bologna v Atalanta
     Fiorentina v AC Milan

    Sunday December 20

     Genoa v Bari
     Inter Milan v Lazio
     Juventus v Catania
     Livorno v Sampdoria
     Napoli v Chievo
     Palermo v Siena
     Roma v Parma
     Udinese v Cagliari

    Juventus' morale has been damaged since their win against Inter. The team was knocked out of the Champions League after losing 4-1 to Bayern Munich and then they lost 3-1 to Bari last Saturday.

    Diego missed a penalty against Bari and the Brazilian is being blamed for Juventus' problems, along with Felipe Melo. Defender Giorgio Chiellini believes the whole team needs to take responsibility.

    "We need to find some momentum because in the past few months after every great match we have played badly,'' Chiellini said.

    "There are too many ups and downs and it is difficult to understand why.

    "Compared to last year, there has been a generational change. New players have arrived and it is not easy for them to fit in straightaway. In defence we lack familiarity, but that is the entire team's fault, not just the four defenders.''

    SOURCE: Agencies


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