League Leaders Inter look to maintain their nine-point advantage at the summit when they host a resurgent Roma at the San Siro this weekend.
Tuesday night saw both sides in Champions League action. Jose Mourinho once again came up against his old foe Sir Alex Ferguson as the Nerazzuri held current holders Manchester United to a goalless draw. Roma, meanwhile, were narrowly defeated at Arsenal, with a Robin Van Persie penalty proving the decisive action of the game.
However, the weekend sees attention divert firmly back to the domestic scene, as
Inter look to regain their Scudetto title. Both teams have been going in Serie A in recent weeks, achieving results even if performances were lacking. The Nerazzurri unconvincingly overcame lowly Bologna last weekend, despite taking the lead through Esteban Cambiasso. Momentarily, it looked as though Bologna would hold out for a draw that would have put a dent in Inter’s title ambitions. However, substitute Mario Balotelli made an immediate impact, scoring with a free kick two minutes after coming on to spare Inter’s blushes. The win was made even more vital with both Juventus and Milan winning their respective matches.
Roma also claimed a slender 1-0 win, against Siena, with Rodrigo Taddei scoring the decisive goal. La Magica’s revival since the turn of the year has been nothing short of miraculous, with Luciano Spaletti’s side tasting defeat just once – a surprise loss to Atalanta in Week 24. They have made amends for their torrid start to the campaign and i Lupi now come into this weekend’s encounter looking to close
in on Genoa and Fiorentina, in their bid to chase the coveted fourth spot and qualify for next season’s Champions League. They currently lie sixth, two points behind la Viola.
The recent head-to-head record between the two sides does not bode well for the visitors. I Lupi have beaten Inter only twice in their last nine meetings, with one of those coming in a 6-2 demolition in the Coppa Italia and the Giallorossi have recorded just one league win against la Beneamata since 2005. This weekend marks the sixth time the two sides have met in the past calendar year and the third match between the two sides already this season, having already met in Serie A and the Coppa Italia. Il Biscione has won both, cruising to a 4 -0 victory in the reverse fixture and a 2 -1 win last month in the cup.
If Roma is to record a rare league victory against Inter and solidify their claim for fourth place, they will have to contain Inter’s attacking duo of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Adriano. Both were on target in the Coppa Italia victory earlier this year and have scored 17 league goals between them already this term (although Adriano only has 3 of those to his name). Ibrahimovic has been a revelation this season, with 14 league goals, including a brace in the reverse fixture against Roma. The Swede has flourished under Mourinho’s guidance and the Inter Coach recently went as far as to state his belief that Ibra is currently the best player in the world.
Roma, with the likes of Mirko Vucinic and Francesco Totti, has attacking prowess of their own. Serb Vucinic has been in inspirational form this season, scoring eight times to help the Giallorossi climb the table. Totti has failed to score since his return from injury, although he has started to gain match fitness. Spalletti looks likely to keep faith in his forward pair for this weekend’s crucial clash. He has a pleasant selection headache in midfield with Daniele De Rossi, Simone Perrotta and David Pizzaro all fit. Pizarro was left on the bench against Arsenal in midweek, but will be hopeful of regaining his place after recently scoring his first goals of the season against Reggina.
It will be intriguing to see Mourinho’s starting line up as they recover from their
Champions League tie against Manchester United on Wednesday. The Portuguese
Tactician was forced to leave Patrick Vieira, Walter Samuel and Maxwell out of the
squad last night due to injury concerns and it remains to be seen if they will recover in time to play. He is likely to start with the impressive Davide Santon at left back, who has proved a pivotal part of protecting their lead at the top. He continued his run in the side against Milan and Manchester United and showed he has the ability to hold his own against some of the best in the world.
Roma have been let down by their dismal away record this season, losing seven of their 13 ties away from the Stadio Olimpico, whilst Inter’s home form has been impressive with nine wins and three draws from 12. However, both teams are entering Sunday evening’s clash needing to win for their respective hopes so the result is by no means a foregone conclusion.
It promises to be a enticing clash between last season’s top two and will be a test to both side’s ability to recover from their midweek action. This is again one that Inter will need to win to take a step closer to lifting the title in May.