Pioli primed for Lazio reunion

The battle for a top-three spot in Italy’s top flight could take a significant twist before the mid-season break when Inter host the Rome club

Stefano Pioli is expecting a tough examination against former club Lazio as his side attempt to close the gap on Serie A’s top three.

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Napoli occupy the third Champions League qualification spot in Italy’s top flight – above Lazio on goal difference, with Inter seven points back.

Defeat at San Siro would therefore send them into the mid-season break with a sizable gap to bridge but Pioli’s men are buoyed by three successive wins across all competitions after losing 3-0 at Napoli at the start of the month.

“They’ll be tricky opposition, like all sides looking to qualify for the Champions League,” the Inter head coach told a pre-match news conference.

“They’ve been able to prepare well for every game given that they are not in Europe this year.

“We’re working hard to improve and secure the kind of results that’ll enable us to be where we want to be at the end of the season.

“We’ve looked good up front so far but we can be more clinical in attack. Also, if you don’t concede it’s easier to win football matches, so that’s something we need to work towards.”

Inter have impressed in that regard, with back-to-back Serie A clean sheets in the triumphs over Genoa and Sassuolo.

The latter 1-0 victory was marred by two bookings for Felipe Melo, who will miss Lazio’s visit.

“It was an intense two years and an important experience for me, but I’m 100 per cent focused on Inter now, ” said Pioli of his time in the capital.

“The past is the past and the present is looking great.

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“Without bits of individual brilliance it’s tough to win, but we have that in our squad and it will help us – as will sticking to our game plan.

“It’s results that determine your league standing and give you the confidence to improve, so [against Lazio] the result is key.”

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