Lazio 2019-2020: A Lost Scudetto Dream Amidst a Pandemic

Lazio may be amongst Italy’s most decorated and historic football clubs, but the Biancocelesti have lost their hold on Italian football in the last decade. 

After a disappointing 8th place finish in the previous campaign, most expected the Rome-based outfit to be nothing more than Europa League hopefuls. However, the Laziali headed into the 2019-20 season with a dream of securing Champions League football for the first time in 13 years.

Simone Inzaghi’s side was ruled out from the Scudetto race at the start of the season as the majority of both media and fans expected one of Juventus, Napoli, or Inter to be crowned champions come June.

The Biancocelesti’s season would start with some difficulties as Lazio would only win three of their opening eight matches and tension between Inzaghi and star striker Ciro Immobile after he was showed displeasure with being taken off in their 2-0 victory over Parma.

Immobile was benched in the next match against Inter, which ended as a 1-0 defeat, yet, he returned in the next game against Genoa and found the back of the net in Lazio’s 4-0 win. Upon scoring, Immobile immediately ran to the sidelines to embrace Inzaghi, signifying their feud had ended.

Their win against Genoa would be the first victory in a 21 match unbeaten streak, breaking the club’s 1999-00 record of 17 games, the same season that Lazio last won the Scudetto.

The peak of Lazio’s unbeaten run was when they set a new club record with 12 consecutive wins, defeating the likes of Juventus, Milan, and Napoli. Out of these 12 victories, none were more significant than the triumph in Milan.

Their 2-1 win over the Rossoneri marked the first time Lazio had won at the San Siro since 1989, and Immobile’s opening goal would be his 100th for the club.

Then came the lockdown. European football came to a stop due to the growing concerns for COVID-19, and Serie A would resume after an unprecedented break. Lazio carried on their Scudetto hopes as they were just a single point behind Juventus for first place. 

They played their first match in over 116 days against Atalanta. Lazio would take an early 2-0 lead but conceded three unanswered goals to lose 3-2. The loss would end their record-breaking unbeaten run and signified the beginning of their season’s collapse.

Although they would win their next two games against Fiorentina and Torino, Lazio would take just 10 out of 27 points from their final 9 matches. The squad’s fitness levels began to worsen towards the end of the season and the likes of Adam Marušić, Lucas Leiva, and Senad Lulić all spent time out on the sidelines.

In an interview with Corriere dello Sport in September 2021, ex-Lazio striker Felipe Caicedo spoke about the 2019-20 season and his shared disappointment with how the pandemic affected Lazio’s title pursuit.

Without the suspension for Covid, Lazio would have won the Scudetto. Not only me, everyone thinks that way. Covid hit us in our best period. We were confident, hungry. At that moment no one believed in it more than us. Then everything we know happened, but without the suspension the championship would have been ours,” Caicedo said.

The Ecuadorian amassed 9 goals and 5 assists in 30 appearances in the 2019-20 campaign but was one of the many Lazio players who saw a significant drop in form after the lockdown.

For neutral fans, Lazio’s 2019-20 campaign was nothing less than spectacular. The club set a new record for most points in a season, ended their Champions League qualification drought, won the Supercoppa Italiana title, and Ciro Immobile won the Capocannoniere award with 36 goals tying Gonzalo Higuaín’s record for the most goals scored in a single Serie A season.

There is no telling whether Lazio would have maintained their record-breaking form without the interruption of the lockdown, but the thought of what could have been will leave Laziali with a feeling of bitterness. The Biancocelesti’s 2019-20 season has been one of the most unexpected thrills in recent years and a season that Lazio supporters will likely never forget.