Pioli: "Fiorentina must raise game for Lazio test"

Pioli: "Fiorentina must raise game for Lazio test"

17/04/2018 13:58

Stefano Pioli believes his Fiorentina side need to find an extra gear if they are to rise to the challenge of taking on Serie A’s top scorers Lazio when they visit the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Wednesday night.
"Every match is a test – that’s the nature of our job," he began, speaking in his pre-match press conference. "Usually there’s a test every week and right now we have one every three days. It’s a big test and it’s important that we’re prepared both physically and mentally. Lazio are a good side with quality players and in recent years they’ve consistently finished near the top of the table. They have physical presence, they’re organised and they have individual quality, so we’re definitely going to need to put in a big performance."

Pioli reiterated his belief that Lazio are the toughest team the Viola have faced so far this campaign.

"They’re the team that has caused us most problems this season, although both games we’ve played were very even," he said. "We had plenty of chances in the league game albeit only getting the equaliser at the death. It was a good performance, especially in the first half. We didn’t produce our best showing in the cup, but even so we were in the game until the final whistle. Lazio are a physical side with a real presence and they get numbers forward – they’re a good side and the stats are proving that. They’re the highest scoring team in Serie A and have the league’s top scorer. It was a surprise to see them get knocked out of the Europa League but then they produced a great performance in the derby, so we’re expecting to face a great side."

The Viola boss also rejected suggestions that his team are better suited to facing the bigger sides, though conceded that the absence of Milan Badelj means Fiorentina find it harder to break down opponents.

"I don’t agree because we were the ones who took the game to Inter, AC Milan and Juventus – we didn’t hang back and wait for them to come at us and play on the counter," he said. "Badelj is a really important player in terms of our build-up play and he gets the ball to our strikers quickly, but in the last round of matches we topped almost all the league stats – shots, chances created, possession, average positions. We played the way we needed to [against SPAL] but it’s just a shame we couldn’t score. I don’t think we’re better against certain types of teams – we just need to play well and keep a high tempo and that’s especially true tomorrow."

Bryan Dabo is the man that has come into the team to plug the gap left by Badelj – and Pioli had warm praise for the Frenchman.

"When we started looking for a central midfielder to complete our squad we were looking for a player with specific attributes," he said. "Based on what we had seen, we thought that Bryan fitted the bill. He gives us a big physical presence and brings dynamism to the team, plus he’s strong defending set plays, which is important – Lazio are the league’s top scorers from dead-ball situations. He’s doing well but can still improve."

Some observers put Fiorentina’s inability to beat SPAL down to tiredness, but Pioli was unwilling to make excuses.

"There’s no doubt that our playing style takes a lot out of us both physically and mentally," he said. "That’s the philosophy we have. In my eyes, the players should be dead on their feet by the end of games. If we come off with something still in the tank, it means we’ve gone wrong somewhere. That said, the team is in good shape. I still have two training sessions left so we’ll see who is looking fittest. I might make a few chances but not that many, provided the fitness is there."

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