One of the most heavily expected fixtures in the Serie A calendar pits a resurgent Roma side against table-topping Inter on Saturday. Amidst renewed optimism at the Stadio Olimpico, the Italian capital could prove a slippery road for the division’s best-performing team.
Roma’s underwhelming three-game winless league streak (D1, L2) toward the end of Jose Mourinho’s reign plunged Giallorossi into mid-table. However, Daniele De Rossi’s appointment as the Special One’s successor has turned the Rome outfit’s fortunes around, steering them straight back into the top-four race.
Monday’s emphatic 4-0 rout of relegation-threatened Cagliari lifted Roma to within a single point of fourth-placed Atalanta, setting them up nicely for this Serie A blockbuster. De Rossi’s arrival has coincided with Giallorossi’s renaissance, with the capital-based club winning all three league matches under his stewardship.
If there’s a side capable of knocking Roma off their perch, it’s high-flying Inter. Simone Inzaghi’s side claimed a well-deserved 1-0 home win against the closest Scudetto challengers, Juventus, last weekend, opening up a four-point gap at the table’s summit. With a game in hand, Nerazzurri seem to be waltzing away with a landmark 20th Serie A title midway through the campaign.
But according to Inzaghi’s post-Juventus press conference, there’s no room for complacency. A six-game winning streak stretching between various competitions, including the triumphant Supercoppa Italiana, testifies to Inter’s skyrocketing confidence ahead of this daunting-looking road trip.
There’s no better way for De Rossi to prove his managerial credentials after beating three relegation-fighting sides than ending Roma’s lengthiest wait for a home league win against Inter since 1940. Indeed, their last Serie A triumph against the 19th-time Italian champions dates back to 2016, with Giallorossi going winless in six such fixtures since (D3, L3).
As if that’s not concerning enough, they’ve lost their last two league clashes against Inter without scoring. However, the Stadio Olimpico forms the perfect backdrop for Roma’s bid to end that streak, with De Rossi’s men stitching together a jaw-dropping 14-game unbeaten home run across all competitions (W12, D2) since a 2-1 loss to the other Milan club in early September.
Not only are Inter the only side in Serie A yet to lose an away league match this season (W9, D2), but their defensive prowess has been off the charts. Inzaghi’s men have only conceded four goals on their 11 top-flight travels this term, accounting for the most stubborn defensive record on hostile turf in Europe’s traditional top-five leagues.
Equally formidable on the opposite end of the field, Inter boast the division’s high 51 goals this term despite netting precisely once in back-to-back victories against Fiorentina and Juventus. Maintaining their defensive solidity could lead Nerazzurri to a historic feat as they aim to beat Roma ‘to nil’ in three consecutive league meetings for only the second time in their top-flight history.
Long-term absentees Chris Smalling and Tammy Abraham are still unavailable, as is Evan Ndicka, who’ll contest for the Africa Cup of Nations trophy with Ivory Coast later this weekend. Sardar Azmoun has returned to Rome after Iran bowed out of the Asian Cup, but Paulo Dybala’s return to full fitness will probably demote him to the bench.
Winter arrival Angelino should take Leonardo Spinazzola’s place at left back, but all eyes will be on captain Lorenzo Pellegrini. The Italian playmaker enters this showdown in red-hot form after scoring in all three Serie A appearances under De Rossi.
Serie A top-scorer Lautaro Martinez can match Pellegrini’s scoring potential as he seeks his 20th league goal this season. Juan Cuadrado is recovering from a long-term Achilles injury, while Davide Frattesi is out of contention for this trip after suffering a muscle problem.
But the rest of the star-studded Inter squad is fit and ready, including January addition Tajon Buchanan, who’s still waiting for his Serie A debut.
Roma vs Inter Potential Lineups
Roma (4-3-2-1): Rui Patricio; Rick Karsdorp, Gianluca Mancini, Diego Llorente, Angelino; Lorenzo Pellegrini, Leandro Paredes, Bryan Cristante; Stephan El Shaarawy, Paulo Dybala; Romelu Lukaku.
Inter (3-5-2): Yann Sommer; Benjamin Pavard, Francesco Acerbi, Alessandro Bastoni; Matteo Darmian, Nicolo Barella, Hakan Calhanoglu, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Federico Dimarco; Marcus Thuram, Lautaro Martinez.
Roma vs Inter Prediction
While it’s impossible to overlook Roma’s eye-catching form under De Rossi, Inter’s consistency has been nothing short of intimidating. As such, we back the visitors to take home three points and tighten their stranglehold on a heavily anticipated Serie A title.
Prediction: Inter Win
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