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Just Imagine

Resurgent Lazio lead Roman revival

  • Story Highlights
  • Most of the regular Serie A contenders have had a bad start to the season
  • Lazio have not had much success since their golden period in the late 1990s
  • They now sit top of the Italian league, having scored 14 goals in six matches
  • The on-loan Argentine forward Zarate has been key to this season's success
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By Greg Duke
For CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Jose Mourinho's arrival at Inter Milan has created all the Serie A headlines this season and the defending champions are already handily-placed to lift the Scudetto again, lying third in the table on goal difference.

The Lazio team

Lazio have bounced back from a period of relative mediocrity and links to a match-fixing scandal.

However, the expected challengers to Inter's title have all started badly. City rivals Milan are down in eighth place, Juventus are struggling in 11th and Roma, the main challengers over the last two seasons, have had a shocking start to the season and are wallowing in 14th place -- losing all their three away matches so far.

Roma's decline has coincided with a revival in the fortunes of their Eternal City rivals Lazio. These two bitterest of enemies have been evenly matched in the past, but Lazio have had to play second fiddle in recent seasons as the Giallorosso have finished in the top two in Serie A or the Coppa Italia an impressive 11 times during the decade.

Well, it's all change this season, as Roma nervously look over their shoulder at the drop zone and Lazio lead the table -- although admittedly they only preserved their position courtesy of a 90th minute Simone Inzaghi goal that earned a 1-1 home draw with Lecce in their last match.

Lazio have had a rollercoaster few seasons since their golden period in the late '90s when they won the Scudetto, two Coppa Italias, the European Cup Winners' Cup and the Super Cup, as well as finishing runners-up in Serie A and the UEFA Cup.

Beset by problems on and off the pitch, Lazio were heavily implicated in the match-fixing scandal, although an appeal ensured they avoided their original punishment of being demoted to Serie B for their involvement.

During this period the club have kept faith with coach Delio Rossi, largely on the back of leading the Biancocelesti to third place in Serie A two seasons ago, although they subsequently flopped in the Champions League by finishing bottom of their group.

However, in his fourth season in charge, Rossi finally appears to have molded together a squad capable of giving their passionate fans something to cheer about.

Undoubtedly, the star of the show has been on-loan Argentine forward Mauro Zarate. The 21-year-old first came to prominence last season while on-loan at Birmingham City in the Premier League.

Despite some impressive displays, and four goals in 14 games, he was unable to prevent the club's relegation at the end of the season.

Birmingham's failure to maintain their top flight status meant the club were unable to sign Zarate permanently, but their loss has certainly been Lazio's gain this season.

Zarate, who is still technically contracted to Qatari side Al-Sadd but is expected to sign a permanent deal with Lazio, has plundered six goals in his first six games to power to the top of the Serie A scoring charts.

Ably assisted by long-serving duo Goran Pandev and Tommaso Rocchi, and with veteran Inzaghi now seemingly back in favor again, Lazio have a wealth of strike talent at their disposal -- and it is this scoring presence which has seen them already net 14 goals this season, four more than any other club.

It remains to be seen whether Lazio will be among the honors this season, but it certainly looks like the balance of power amongst Rome's football-mad supporters has shifted their way once again.

All About SS LazioAS RomaItalian Football LeagueThe F.A. Premier League

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