For long parts of the Serie A season, it seemed likely that Juventus would finally be dethroned in Italy and the Bel Paese will have new kings of football.
Lazio gave the Old Lady a run for their money all season long, but their terrible form post the resumption of football and Juventus’ brilliant run since its return has meant that they will likely have to be content with a place in the Champions League.
With eight points separating the two sides, Lazio will have to beat Juventus on Tuesday to salvage their hopes of winning the Scudetto for the first time since 2000 and the man they’ll be on banking to upstage the reigning champions is striker Ciro Immobile, who is Serie A’s leading goal scorer with 29 goals, one more than Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo.
The two are engaged in a battle for the Capocannoniere, awarded to Serie A’s top scorer, and below we take a look at who stands a better chance to take home to award:
Before the lockdown, Ronaldo had scored or assisted in 13 straight Serie A games, his best run since joining Juventus in 2018. He continued that run post the return of football, scoring or assisting in eight straight matches before finally blanking against Sassuolo in their 3-3 draw last Thursday.
Immobile, too, was in the sensational form before the lockdown and had struck 27 goals in 26 games but has found it difficult to get going for the past month and has scored just twice in six matches. Lazio have won just a solitary point in the five matches that their talisman has blanked in or missed; a run of form that has seen them fall out of contention for the Scudetto.
Given their current form, it certainly seems that Ronaldo will be the one that will be taking home the Capocannoniere unless Immobile finds his shooting boots in Lazio’s upcoming matches.
Both players will lead their team’s attack when the two meet at the J Stadium on Tuesday.
The reverse fixture finished in a 3-1 victory for Lazio, as the side from the capital struck thrice after Ronaldo had given Juventus the lead in the 25th minute. Immobile, uncharacteristically, missed a penalty in that game and has now scored just five goals in 16 appearances against Juventus. Ronaldo, on the other hand, has struck twice and provided an assist in three appearances against the side from the capital and will certainly have the psychological edge heading into the fixture.
Both teams have three relatively easy fixtures after their match on Tuesday, with Lazio facing 11th-placed Cagliari, ninth-placed Verona and relegation bound Brescia. The Old Lady will take on 15th-placed Udinese, 14th-placed Sampdoria and Cagliari.
Both players have tremendous records against all three sides that their teams will face.
Immobile has scored seven goals in eight appearances against Cagliari, eight in seven against Hellas Verona and five in three against Brescia, which includes a 91st-minute winner in the reverse fixture, where he hit a brace to lead Lazio to a 2-1 win.
Ronaldo, who is in his second season in Italy, struck two of his three goals against Udinese in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. The Portuguese superstar has similar records against Sampdoria and Cagliari, having scored thrice in two appearances against those two sides.
If their history is anything to go by, both Ronaldo and Immobile are set to score plenty in these three fixtures.
The final game week of the Serie A season is where things could get interesting. Juventus host Roma while Lazio travel to Naples to take on Napoli. If the Old Lady have the title wrapped up by then, coach Maurizio Sarri will be tempted to rest Ronaldo ahead of their Champions League second leg tie against Lyon, where Juventus trail the French side 1-0.
Lazio have no European commitments so Immobile will certainly feature in that fixture, possibly giving him the edge in the race for the Capocannoniere.
History beckons both
Having already won the golden boot in England and Spain, Ronaldo could become the third player in history to win the award in three different European countries after Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Luis Suarez, who won it in the Netherlands, England and Spain.
Immobile, on the other hand, has won the Capocannoniere twice already, and could become only the eighth man in Serie A history to win the award thrice. Lazio legend Giuseppe Signori was the last player to achieve the feat, winning his third golden boot in 1996.
The Italian striker needs six goals while Ronaldo needs seven in five games to upstage Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski in the race for the European golden shoe. If either player wins the award, it would be the first time since 2006 that a player from Serie A player wins the golden shoe. Francesco Totti was the last player from Italy’s top division to win the award.
Ronaldo has already won the European golden shoe four times and will be aiming for a fifth to cut the gap to one on eternal rival Lionel Messi, while Immobile will hope to become just the third Italian player after Luca Toni and Francesco Totti to win Europe’s top goalscoring prize.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Miguel Medina, Alberto Pizzoli