- Associated Press - Thursday, January 19, 2017

MILAN (AP) - As a coach, Simone Inzaghi is finally stepping out of his older brother’s shadow.

The younger Inzaghi had some success as a player with Lazio, winning one Serie A title and three Italian Cups. But Filippo Inzaghi was one of the most famous forwards in the world, winning three Italian league and two Champions League titles with Juventus and AC Milan.

Filippo, a former Milan coach now at the helm at third-division club Venezia, also helped Italy win the World Cup in 2006, and finished his international career with 57 appearances. Simone played only three times for Italy.

But Simone, now 40, is coming into his own as coach of Lazio after taking over from Stefano Pioli in April.

Under Simone this season, Lazio - which finished eighth last year - is proving to be somewhat of a surprise package, challenging for a Champions League spot behind Serie A leader Juventus, Roma and Napoli.

“Our aim is to try to always do well,” Simone said. “Forty points in 20 matches is a lot. We’ve got to applaud these lads, because in July probably nobody believed Lazio would put together 40 points and deserve them and should even have a few more.

“Now the difficult part comes because we’re not a surprise anymore. We have the duty now to try to remain there right until the end, knowing that it will be difficult, knowing that there are teams which are much better-equipped, but we have proved we belong there and we want to remain at the top.”

Next up for Lazio on Sunday is a trip to Juventus, which last weekend lost at Fiorentina 2-1.

Juventus has been tough to beat at home, and improved on its own Serie A record with a 26th consecutive home victory on Jan. 8.

“We’ve won five of the last six games, losing only to Inter despite an excellent first half,” Simone said Wednesday after Lazio beat Genoa 4-2 to reach the Italian Cup quarterfinals. “We have to continue like this.

“We know we’re playing against Juve, which has won the last 28 matches at home, so we know it will be very difficult for us but we have three or four days to recover, get our energy back and we’ll go there to try and impose our game, try to do our best against a team which has been dominating our league for five to six years.”

Simone has already faced Juventus twice as a coach, losing 3-0 in Turin in April, shortly after taking charge, and 1-0 in Rome in August.

Lazio hasn’t beaten Juventus in the league in 13 years, while the Bianconeri have won the past eight encounters.

“We have to try to give our all,” Simone said. “In the first match this season we had a good match but there was a mistake and (Juventus midfielder Sami) Khedira punished us.

“We have to try and impose our match, knowing that we’re facing a really strong team … I beat Juventus as a player, I’d like to beat it as coach, too.”

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