Internazionale vs AS Roma: Match preview and prediction
Internazionale’s bid to break Juventus’ hegemony in the Serie A faces a stern test tonight as the Nerazzurri host AS Roma.
It is a battle between two top-half sides as Inter will be looking to hold on to the top spot that they currently occupy. Paulo Fonseca’s AS Roma, despite a slow start, has looked good in the past few weeks and are vying to break into the top four.
It must, however, be pointed out that the proceedings to this match have been marred by an overtly racist Corriere dello Sport headline. Either the newspaper was outrageously tone-deaf or blatantly racist.
Antonio Conte’s Inter have been in stupendous form. Since the narrow defeat to Juventus on November 7, the Nerrazzuri have not lost a single Serie A game (W6, D1). The Bianconeri’s failure to dispose off Sassuolo last week saw them relinquish the top spot to Conte’s men.
Roma has also charted out an impressive run (W4, L1 in last five Serie A games) that is seeing them contend for the top four with Cagliari and bitter rivals Lazio. A win today will see the Giallorossi displace Lazio at third place.
Two adept defenses clash
Both sides head into the game with interesting defensive numbers.
The hosts have conceded the least number of goals (6) at home so far in the Serie A. San Siro has been a defensive fortress for Conte with the only blip being the loss to Juventus.
Roma, funnily enough, have the second-best defensive record in the league when playing on the road. The Giallorossi have only conceded five times in seven away games.
Tonight’s game could prove to be a cagey affair.
Antonio Conte’s hard-running game style has unsurprisingly led to multiple players being sidelined due to injuries. Alexis Sanchez is the most high-profile name in Inter’s inactive list.
A major concern for Conte, however, will be the absence of Roberto Gagliardini who hurt himself in the win over SPAL last week. Due to this, he’ll have to insert Borja Valero into the XI – the Spaniard has only played twice in the Serie A this season.
Nicolo Barella, Stefano Sensi and Kwadwo Asamaoh will not be available for the hosts due to injuries.
For the visitors, left wing is an area that is depleted due to squad injuries. Both Justin Kluivert and Javier Pastore will not be fit for this game so it is likely that Arsenal loanee Henrikh Mkhitaryan will start.
On the right wing, Nicola Zaniolo is back from his suspension.
Romelu Lukaku vs Chris Smalling
After an abject 2018-19 at Old Trafford, Romelu Lukaku has hit the ground running at Internazionale.
In all honestly, there was no doubt that a Conte-Lukaku pairing would work. ‘Big Rom’ fits the archetype of a burly, bruising striker that thrives in Conte’s energetic system.
The freedom that has been given to the Belgian, however, has unleashed an even better player. Lukaku is most effective when drifting in from the wing and combining with his phenomenal strike partner, Lautaro Martinez.
Chris Smalling, who is also having a career renaissance in Italy, has to be wary of the Lukaku-Lautaro double punch. The Englishman will have to stick close to his former teammate and actively try to disorient him from supplying crosses to Martinez.
If Smalling does not get adequate help from his defensive midfielders, Roma will be in big trouble.
Borja Valero vs Lorenzo Pellegrini
A makeshift midfield for Inter will be advantageous for the visitors, especially considering the form Lorenzo Pellegrini is in.
Pellegrini’s six assists are second-best in the league. With a proven finisher like Edin Dzeko up front, Pellegrini will be relishing the battle against Borja Valero, who has rarely featured for Inter.
The Spanish midfielder was a great presence at Fiorentina but at Inter he has been a shadow of his former self. Valero is a glaring weak link that Roma will be looking to exploit today. Don’t be surprised if Pellegrini is directly involved in a goal.
Marcelo Brozovic vs Amadou Diawara
To limit Roma’s creativity from the midfield, Conte will likely be looking to maintain greater possession. For that, he’ll turn towards Marcelo Brozovic who’s been his consistent self this season.
The Croatian’s strengths lie in distributing the ball and bringing others into the play. His long balls to Inter’s bombarding wing-backs are a thing of beauty. Brozovic’s creativity will be key to unlocking Roma’s stubborn defense.
Fonseca will task Amadou Diawara into harrowing and haggling Brozovic whenever the latter is in possession. The Guinean has the ability to close down on players with the ball but will he be able to trouble Brozovic? Or will his lack of experience allow the veteran Croatian to dictate terms?
The last seven five encounters between these two rivals have resulted in three draws and a win each for both sides.
If we go by recent history, there is literally nothing to separate these two sides.
That being said, Inter had not been coached by a genius like Conte in those five encounters. The former Juventus and Chelsea manager does bring in a factor that is hard to ignore.
Inter are slight favorites to win this one. Expect them to score twice in the game but also concede one – the Nerrazzuri have conceded in four of their last five Serie A fixtures.
Predicted scoreline: Internazionale 2-1 AS Roma