Serie A returns with a bang this weekend following the winter break. The headline attraction of this weekend’s Italian fixture list comes on Sunday night, as two of the country’s most iconic teams go head to head.
Internazionale host Roma at San Siro in a game that sees Inter manager Luciano Spalletti up against the side he left for a second time in the summer.
With both teams still hopeful of a Champions League at the very least, here’s all you need to know ahead of this mouthwatering encounter.
For so much of the first half of this Serie A season it seemed as though there would be a four-way battle for the title, with these two sides locking horns with Napoli and defending champions Juventus for top honours, but poor ends to last year and the start of this mean that both Inter and Roma find themselves playing catch up when the action resumes on Sunday.
Inter had been unbeaten in their opening sixteen games of the season, and a goalless draw with Juventus had them two points clear at the top of the standings. That, however, was followed up by a 3-1 defeat at Udinese, and Inter have yet to recover. They ended the first half of the year winless in five and nine points adrift of current leaders Napoli – as well as suffering a defeat on penalties to local rivals AC Milan in the quarter finals of the Coppa Italia.
Roma’s end to the first half of the season wasn’t much better. They picked up just a single win in their last five games before the break, as the gap between themselves and the top of the table grew from six points to eleven points seeing them drop from fourth to fifth in the table, albeit with a game in hand. Like Inter, Roma also suffered a Coppa Italia exit during that time, losing 2-1 to Torino at the round of 16 stage.
Roma 4-2 Inter (30th November 2014)
Roma kept pace with perpetual early leaders Juventus following this entertaining encounter in the early stages of the 2014/15 season, in what was just Roberto Mancini’s second Serie A match since returning to Inter.
It was Roma who deservedly opened the scoring after 21 minutes, Gervinho tapping in Adam Ljajic’s cross from close range for his second Serie A goal of the season. Inter responded well however and the visitors equalised ten minutes before half time when Andrea Ranocchia headed in from a corner.
Roma would retake the lead just minutes after the restart in stunning style, as Jose Holebas rode the challenge of one defender before passing it round another on a one man charge into the area before firing a cross goal strike into the far top corner to make it 2-1.
Once again Inter responded, and after Dani Osvaldo went close to bettering Holebas’ effort with a bicycle kick from the edge of the area which went just wide, the Italian found the equaliser with a deflected strike into the bottom corner from just inside the Roma penalty area.
For the third time in the match Roma would take the lead, as Miralem Pjanic benefited from the persistence of Francesco Totti to slot home on the hour mark and make it 3-2. This time there was to be no Inter equaliser, and it was Pjanic who would complete the scoring with his second and Roma’s fourth with a stunning thirty yard free kick into the top corner in the final minutes to secure the three points.
Inter will return from the mid-season break with no fresh injury concerns, and right back Danilo D’Ambrosio is the sides only high profile absentee with a ligament problem. One man who could come into the back line in Lisandro Lopez, who joined the Nerazzurri from Portuguese champions Benfica on Thursday on a six month loan deal with an option to buy.
Roma also return from the international break without any fresh injury concerns, though full back Rick Karsdorp is still some way from returning from a cruciate ligament rupture, and striker Gregorie Defrel has reportedly yet to have a date set on his return following a knee problem.
Predicted Inter Lineup: Handanovic; Santon, Lopez, Skriniar, Cancelo; Gagliardini, Vecino, Candreva, Valero, Perisic; Icardi
Predicted Roma Lineup: Alisson; Kolarov, Fazio, Manolas, Florenzi; Strootman, Gonalons, De Rossi; Perotti, Dzeko, El Shaarawy
Following a dismal end to the first half of the season, both of these sides will be desperate to kickstart their campaigns on Sunday night.
This fixture has a history of high scoring encounters, so the presence of Inter goal machine Mauro Icardi could make the difference at San Siro.
Prediction: Inter 2-0 Roma