In we go. Romanisti need no introduction to the Inter-Roma confrontation, and the feelings involved in it will be largely subjective. Let us go straight to the important questions – how should we play, and what kind of result can we expect?
Inter are leading the table, and have been doing so for four years. A glance at their squad is enough to tell us why. Whatever the position on the pitch, Inter can boast a plethora of internationally valid players. It is dispiriting to witness how even with several starters injured, they can still field a team which could be called competitive in the Champions League. Still, Roma will have to make the most of these absences, and the point to start from is the midfield.
Inter are a very muscular team. Their physical preponderance is beyond doubt, but they are somewhat lacking in the field of creativity, especially now that Thiago Motta is out and Wesley Snejder is doubtful. Daniele De Rossi will have to put a lock on Dejan Stankovic (or Sneijder, if fielded) while some pace will be required on the wings – Stefano Guberti is an obligatory starter on the left, even as the right flank gives us much to ponder upon. Simone Perrotta, given his goal against Bologna, is likely to start, but his contributions will probably go no further than containment of the opposition. While this is important, it would be nice to also possess someone who can take the ball forward, and we regret that Alessio Cerci should be unavailable. For all of his inexperience, the wolf-pup plays in the zone where Inter are most likely to be vulnerable, especially if they field Amantino Mancini, whose skill-sets lean on the offensive side.
In the absence of Francesco Totti, sources agree that the starting duo in the attack will count Jérémy Ménez and Mirko Vučinić. While we would concur with this selection under almost all circumstances, for the match against Inter we would rather see Júlio Baptista take the place of Ménez. The Frenchman has flair, but is frail – simply too frail to hold his ground against the Nerazzurri. Baptista, though much can be said against him, has a physicality which rivals that of any Inter player. If he is well supported by his team-mates, he is the man who can terminate his chances against Júlio César.
As far as tactics go, there is precious little to be done. Inter have very few weaknesses and a world of strengths, so the only thing to be done is to field a standard 4-4-2 and hope that the players give the best of themselves. Claudio Ranieri may choose to gamble and deploy an eccentric formation, as he has been doing for the last few games, but the stakes are not in his favour.
Can Roma win this game, or at least scrape a draw? There is one variable which shall give us the answer. Inter are the great favourites of this game, not because it is hard to score against them (which it is), but because it is so dreadfully difficult to keep them from scoring – Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito are practically impossible to contain. The variable that will make or break this match, then, and assuming that Ranieri refrains from tactical carnivals, will be the performance of the full-backs. John Arne Riise and Marco Motta, or anyone else who is fielded, must both put in the performance of their lives. They must lend great support on the wings, for Inter can only be attacked from the sides, and they must provide superb coverage against the runs of Maicon and Cristian Chivu. If they can do this, if the team holds as a whole and if the referees break their tradition of falling in love with Inter whenever they are playing at the San Siro against Roma, then the Giallorossi could surprise the peninsula. Is this a likely scenario? Not really, no. But it is worth believing in it. It is the only thing we have got.
Roma Club Focus 2009/10
The senate is adjourned – August 25, 2009
Houston, we have a problem – August 28, 2009
The time of Penelope – September 1, 2009
Good move, bad timing – September 4, 2009
International week (Georgia-Italy, Italy-Bulgaria)
Break means homework time for Ranieri – September 7, 2009
A win that means more than three points – September 15, 2009
Ranieri chases team spirit – September 18, 2009
Champagne! – September 22, 2009
Children of Chaos – September 25, 2009
Catania is beginning to get on our nerves – September 29, 2009
Ranieri has yet to stabilise i Lupi – October 3, 2009
A solid win at a heavy price? – October 6, 2009
Rumours as IFFHS ranks the Giallorossi as best in Italy – October 9, 2009
The strange attractor of two inherently chaotic teams – October 16, 2009
The sound and the fury – October 20, 2009
The importance of being Francesco – October 23, 2009
A shot in the foot – October 27, 2009
Waiting for Godot (and the rest of our men) – October 30, 2009
Win as a team, die as individuals – November 3, 2009
Into the nest of snakes – November 6, 2009