Given the miracles Luciano Spalletti has achieved since he returned to the Italian capital for a second spell, there will be quite a few Giallorossi fans wondering why the Italian tactician was not brought in sooner when things started to go awry under Rudi Garcia. Interestingly, it was against the Nerazzurri that things started to go downhill for Roma earlier this season. Back in October, the two sides met at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, and for all intents and purposes, it seemed like each would have to settle for a draw.
However, a late goal from Inter would give Roberto Mancini’s men all three points. Whilst at the time it only appeared to be a minor setback, it indeed would set a negative trend in motion for Roma. Prior to the loss to Inter, the Lupi had picked up five wins on the trot. After the defeat, Roma would go on to win just two matches until Garcia’s sacking on January 13th.
Spalletti did not immediately see positive results upon his arrival in January. In fact, his first game in charge saw Roma have to settle with a draw with relegation candidates Hellas Verona, followed by a defeat to reigning Scudetto holders Juventus. However, the defeat to the Bianconeri proved to be the turning point for this side, and since overpowering Frosinone 3-1 on January 30th, Roma have not looked back.
Should they beat Inter today, it will be their ninth consecutive win and whilst it will not be enough to catch Napoli in second, nor Juventus in first, it nonetheless will take them one step closer to matching the ten they managed at the start of the 2013/2014 season. Whilst the Scudetto is a task too far, still, the Bianconeri have shown that the only way one can climb the table is to win, and win often. The Partenopei have been in excellent form, but five points are not entirely insurmountable for Roma, who themselves were caught and overtaken by Juventus despite enjoying a massive double-points advantage over La Vecchia Signora not too long ago this season.
With the return of young defender Antonio Rüdiger, Spalletti will have a full-strength available for selection, which also will include Radja Nainggolan and Daniele De Rossi in the middle of the park. And the in-form trio of Mohamed Salah, Stephan El Shaarawy and Diego Perotti – the latter two who arrived only this January – will be tasked with spearheading the attack. El Shaarawy in particular has been quite excellent since returning to Italy after a frustrating spell with Monaco, and Roma fans are certainly happy that AC Milan opted not to bring him back to the San Siro this season.
Meanwhile, for Inter, this will be a must-win game. The Nerazzurri hit a rough patch at the start of this year and have never fully recovered. Indeed, they have gone from Scudetto contenders to Champions League hopefuls to being in danger of missing out on European football entirely. A win in Rome will not just help them temporarily overtake Fiorentina into fourth, but more important, will help them to close the gap on Roma to just two points. Having won their past two games, a third straight win would go a long way in boosting fans’ confidence, but unfortunately they will have to make do without three options in attack.
Stevan Jovetic and Mauro Icardi are both out injured, whilst Rodrigio Palacio is suspended. This leaves new signing Eder – who has struggled to find his footing since his January arrival from Sampdoria – and ex-Roma man Adem Ljajic in charge of leading the line. The Serbian in particular will have a point to prove against his former team, especially considering that he was not given much playing time during his time at the Stadio Olimpico. And in the absence of three first-choice attackers, this will be the perfect opportunity for him to step up and deliver as Inter hope to halt Roma’s recently resurgent run.
Interestingly, although Roma are flying high and Inter are still struggling to get back on track, the Nerazzurri have long caused troubles for the Giallorossi. Out of their past five meetings, Roma have won two, whilst Inter have won the other two and they settled for a point in the fifth game. Having lost to them earlier this season, the Lupi will be hoping to pick up another three points, but Inter, who have been experiencing an uptick of results for themselves will be trying their hardest to prevent them from making it win number nine later today.
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