Lazio will be looking to reclaim second place in the Serie A table when relegation-threatened Lecce visit the Stadio Olimpico on Friday evening.
With four matches remaining, the hosts find themselves three points inside the top four, while the visitors sit four points clear of the drop zone.
Lazio looked destined to finish as runners-up to newly-crowned champions Napoli thanks to a run of one defeat in 14 Serie A matches between January and April, with seven victories coming in the final eight games of that sequence.
However, the Eagles have surrendered second place to Juventus following a run of three losses in four outings, meaning that Maurizio Sarri’s men are looking over their shoulders as the race for Champions League football heats up.
After suffering back-to-back defeats against Torino and Inter Milan, Lazio claimed a 2-0 victory over Sassuolo before returning to losing ways last weekend, recording a 2-0 defeat against AC Milan at San Siro.
Still, the Rome outfit will be confident of getting back on track when struggling Lecce visit the Stadio Olimpico, as Lazio have won four of their last five home league games, keeping three clean sheets in the process.
Having lost just two of their previous 10 home matches in Serie A – taking 20 points from a possible 30 during that period – Lazio will back themselves to return to winning ways and reignite their top-four charge.
Just like Lazio, Lecce head into Friday’s clash having lost three of their last four games, with a 2-0 defeat at AC Milan preceding back-to-back losses against Juventus and Hellas Verona.
That said, Lecce’s recent defeats have very different ramifications, as Marco Baroni’s side remain just four points clear of the relegation zone with four matches left, meaning that an immediate return to Serie B is a real possibility.
Not only have the Wolves lost three of their last four league outings, but they have also lost nine of their previous 11, picking up a single victory along the way.
When you look at the bigger picture, the Puglia outfit have managed to win just seven of their 34 Serie A encounters this season, while only bottom club Sampdoria have scored fewer goals than Lecce’s 28.
To make matters worse for Lecce, they have lost each of their last five away games while scoring a solitary goal, so Baroni’s men will struggle to enhance their chances of survival at Stadio Olimpico, regardless of Lazio’s recent downturn.
Lazio midfielder Danilo Cataldi has missed the past two games through injury and is not expected to feature on Friday, while Matias Vecino is also likely to be absent after missing last weekend’s defeat to Milan.
Despite scoring just once in his last nine Serie A appearances, key striker Ciro Immobile will continue to lead the line for the Eagles, with Mattia Zaccagni and Felipe Anderson occupying the wide attacking roles.
Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic will continue to operate in midfield, while Alessio Romagnoli and Nicolo Casale should resume their partnership at the heart of Lazio’s backline.
As for Lecce, they are still without Kastriot Dermaku as the Albanian defender continues to recover from a muscle injury, meaning that Federico Baschirotto and Samuel Umtiti will continue at centre-back.
At the opposite end of the pitch, Gabriel Strefezza and Federico Di Francesco are expected to join Gambian striker Assan Ceesay in the visitors’ forward line.
Club captain Morten Hjulmand will anchor the Wolves’ midfield, with Alexis Blin and Remi Oudin joining the Dane in Lecce’s engine room.
Lazio possible starting lineup:
Provedel; Marusic, Casale, Romagnoli, Hysaj; Milinkovic-Savic, Antonio, Alberto; Anderson, Immobile, Zaccagni
Lecce possible starting lineup:
Falcone; Gendrey, Baschirotto, Umtiti, Gallo; Blin, Hjulmand, Oudin; Strefezza, Ceesay, Di Francesco