Old foes Luciano Spalletti and Roberto Mancini will renew their rivalry on Saturday when AS Roma clash with Inter Milan in a crucial Serie A match at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
The match between the two traditional Italian powerhouses assumes special significance as both are currently involved in a struggle to finish third in the Serie A, and consequently to qualify for next year’s UEFA Champions League.
The Giallorossi currently occupy third spot in the league table, with Inter Milan 5 points behind in fifth position. Fiorentina (4th) and AC Milan (6th) are the other two teams who are in contention for a third place finish come the end of the season.
Luciano Spalletti vs Roberto Mancini
From Saturday night’s pivotal encounter between AS Roma and Inter Milan emerges an interesting sub plot. Roma coach Luciano Spalletti came face to face with the Nerazzurri manager Roberto Mancini on several occasions between 2005 and 2009. With Juventus grappling with the Calciopoli scandal and AC Milan on a downward spiral, Inter Milan and Roma emerged as the shining beacons of Italian football during that period.
Under the reign of Mancini, Inter went on to win 3 consecutive league titles from 2005-06 to 2007-08. Although the league title always evaded Spalletti, he went on to win two Coppa Italia titles with Roma in 2006-07 and 2007-08. Since the departure of Spalletti (2009) from Roma, the club has struggled to add to its tally of silverware. At the same time, only Jose Mourinho’s treble-winning Inter side bettered Mancini’s record at the club since the turn of the millennium.
Both managers have returned to their old clubs in a bid to revive the forgotten days of domestic and European glory. A win on Saturday over a familiar foe will go some way towards achieving those objectives.
Spalletti’s Roma bandwagon shows no sign of stopping
Under Spalletti, AS Roma have gone on to win eight successive matches in the Serie A — a run that has seen them leapfrog Inter Milan and Fiorentina into third position in the league table. A win for the Giallorossi on Saturday will send them eight points clear of their opponents and will virtually put Mancini’s side out of the race for Champions League qualification.
Lucas Digne, Alessandro Florenzi, Ervin Zukanovic and Konstantinos Manolas will form Spalletti’s back four ahead of Wojciech Szczesny in goal. Spalletti is likely to deploy his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation against Inter on Saturday, which would see Seydou Keita and Radja Nainggolan occupy the two holding roles in midfield. They will be tasked with tracking runners from Inter Milan’s midfield such as Geoffrey Kondogbia and Adem Ljajic.
Further upfront, Edin Dzeko will start as the lone striker ahead of a midfield trio of Diego Perotti, Stephan El Shaarawy and Mohamed Salah. Dzeko’s duel with Inter central defender Joao Miranda will be pivotal in determining the final result of the match.
Injuries and suspensions inhibit Mancini’s attacking ambitions
Inter Milan head into Saturday night’s blockbuster encounter against Roma on the back of consecutive victories against Palermo and Bologna. A win for the Nerazzurri against the Romans will see them close the gap to third place to just two points.
The presence of Samir Handanovic in goal and Joao Miranda in central defence will lend defensive surety to Roberto Mancini’s ambitions of keeping a clean sheet at the Stadio Olimpico. Chilean midfielder Gary Medel will sit in front of defence, allowing Kondogbia freedom to make his customary runs into the opposition penalty box.
Adem Ljajic, Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic will most likely line up in attacking midfield behind the lone striker. Inter captain and leading scorer Mauro Icardi suffered knee ligament damage against Bologna last week and will not be available for selection against Roma. Fellow strikers Stefan Jovetic (thigh strain) and Rodrigo Palacio (suspension) are also unavailable for selection. Eder, on loan from Sampdoria, is likely to get the nod from Mancini to start up front for Inter.
Edin Dzeko vs Joao Miranda
Having scored 25 goals in all competitions this season thus far, Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko has had a stellar start to his AS Roma career. After a slow start to the current campaign, the former Manchester City front-man has been getting on the scoresheet on a regular basis since the arrival of Luciano Spalletti. His tussle with former Atletico Madrid centre-back Joao Miranda will heavily influence the final outcome of the match.
Geoffrey Kondogbia vs Radja Nainggolan
France midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia was signed by Mancini in the summer for a whopping €31 million from Ligue 1 club AS Monaco. After struggling with his form and injuries for a major part of the season, Kondogbia is getting back to his effervescent best for the Nerazzurri.
His constant forays into the opposition penalty box will have to be tracked by Roma’s midfield destroyer Radja Nainggolan. Over the past couple of seasons, the Belgian international has become an essential member of the Roma starting lineup. Nainggolan will have to be at the top of his game on Saturday night if his side are to extend their winning run to 9 matches.
Mohamed Salah vs Yuto Nagatomo
Since moving to Italy after a torrid year with Chelsea, Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah has been a revelation for AS Roma. Known for his lung bursting runs and skilful dribbling, Salah has arguably been the chief architect of Roma’s revival under Spalletti.
He will be up against Inter Milan’s veteran left-back Yuto Nagatomo on Saturday night. Nagatomo has been wearing the Inter colours since his arrival from FC Tokyo in 2011 and has all the experience on his side to tackle the artistry of Salah on the right wing.