As if you needed another reason to hate them, Inter now employs the most infamous man in Rome since Nero, one Antonio Cassano. Beyond fielding Roma's redheaded stepchild, Inter has toyed with the Roman heart for much of past decade, besting Roma for the Scudetto four times in five seasons from 2005 to 2010, so the ill-will has a little bit of logic to it after all.
It's an odd hate in many ways, they haven't been as explicitly implicated (or convicted for that matter) in the dodgier sides of Italian football like Juventus, but you can't shake that feeling that a Roma-Inter match isn't actually 11 v 12. Conspiracy theories aside, both of last year's fixtures fell in Roma's favor, (well one was a 0-0 draw on the road, but you know what I mean) culminating in a 4-0 thrashing at the Olimpico. Incidentally, all 4 goal scorers that day are now gone (Borini, Juan and Bojan).
So while the hate remains, the fear does not, as Inter only finished two points ahead of Roma last season, 6th to our 7th. But, Inter is still Inter and if the Catania match showed us anything, it's that the acclimation period for Zeman's new tactics might be a bit longer than we hoped. Inter might not be world beaters at the moment, but they're not Novara either; three points are far from guaranteed, especially with the team currently struggling with both form and fitness.
Now that the mercato has closed and the Catania match is in the books, we can draw a few conclusions and venture a few guesses about the season to come.
Well, it took nearly four months, but the last unwanted components of the Luis Enrique experiment have vanished. Jose Angel, so long and thanks for all the memories. Simon Kjaer, thank you for trying. Bojan, hopefully the benches in Milan are more to your liking and your time there is less "weird" than in Roma.
With the last remnants of his predecessor's squad already sold or on their way out, the Zeman era started with not quite a roar, but not necessarily a thud. It was about what we expected; hoards of Romans storming the 6-yard box, leaving a vulnerable and extremely high defensive line susceptible to the Catania counter attack.
The problem being, the first part of that equation wasn't exactly running on all cylinders. Much of the squad, particularly the midfield, were fatigued and confused, resulting in too much mindless possession and too many horizontal passes for Zeman's liking. If you squinted really hard, you could get a glimpse of what the team will look like in a few months, but you were left with the feeling that something wasn't quite right yet. But, that was to be expected, the Zeman system won't fully flourish for a few weeks, once the squad's stamina matches Zeman's ambitions. The Spartan nature of his summer training routines usually results in some heavy legs early in the season.
That being said, there were several positives on which to build. Leandro Castan looked pretty solid (4 tackles, 92% passing) and looks to be a decent complement to Nicolas Burdisso, Michael Bradley, despite looking a bit out of sorts, completed 87% of his passes (best of any midfielder) and tallied one assist. Maarten Stekelenburg, in a lovely twist of irony, briefly quieted his detractors with a spectacular 1 v 1 save on Alejandro Gomez.
Despite, as Zeman claims, drifting out too wide, the left-sided pairing of Francesco Totti and Federico Balzaretti was relatively effective, as 40% of the Roman attack flowed through their side of the pitch. Totti and Balzaretti fed Osvaldo all night long, to the tune of 6 shots for PDO, including his stunning overhead volley. Not to be out done, Nico "Better Than Bojan" Lopez saved the draw with a goal in stoppage time.
So while the first match of the season wasn't the homecoming we had all wished for Zeman, Roma out passed and out shot Catania and might have had the victory were it not for a fortuitous deflection on a Catania set piece in the 28th minute.
That frenetic passing and shooting will come in handy in Sundays match with Inter. In 10 of Roma's last 11 Serie A matches an average of 2.5 goals have been scored, ditto for Inter in their last 6 league matches. While in the confines of the Giuseppe Meazza, Inter have scored at least 2 goals in their last four matches, which works out great because Roma have also conceded at least 2 goals in six of their last seven matches.
So...yeah, this is gonna be a wild one.
Inter (4-3-1-2): 1 Handanovic, 4 Zanetti, 25 Samuel, 23 Ranocchia, 31 Pereira 14 Guarin, 21 Gargano, 19 Cambiasso, 10 Sneijder, 8 Palacio, 22 Milito.
Roma (4-3-3): 24 Stekelenburg, 23 Piris, 29 Burdisso, 5 Castan, 42 Balzaretti, 15 Pjanic, 16 De Rossi, 48 Florenzi, 22 Destro, 9 Osvaldo, 10 Totti.