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Roma Faces Inter In Sunday Showdown

Can the Giallorossi extend their win streak to four?

AS Roma v Hellas Verona - Serie A Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Roma - Inter is always an important match, but tomorrow’s Stadio Olimpico showdown is even more important than usual. For the Giallorossi, the need to keep their foot on the pedal is perpetual; fifth place may seem secure for now but another free fall could make that disappear quickly. Let’s take a look at what happened last time with Roma - Inter and some keys to the match.

Last Time Around: Inter 0 - Roma 0

Roma did a solid job against Inter during their last match against the Nerazzurri, holding the then-league leaders to a 0-0 draw. After the match, this is what bren had to say:

Ultimately this was a defensive showcase, as neither side was really able to breakdown the other in the final third. Inter did have more chances, that’s true, but the best of those stemmed from ghastly Roma errors.

Still, despite those almost blunders, you had to be happy with Roma’s efforts on the road against the league leaders. They showed no hesitation to play their football, winning the possession and position battle for much of the first half and showing impressive organization, offside-trapping and a couple of really excellent last man tackles to keep this match scoreless.

Inter no longer lead the league (surprise surprise, Juventus is in first again), but securing a similar result against Antonio Conte’s squad tomorrow would definitely qualify as another moral victory. We prefer real victories here at Chiesa Di Totti, but this is Roma, we’ll take what we can get.

What To Watch For

How Will Fonseca Handle Inter’s Attacking Talent?

Lautaro Martinez of FC Internazionale reacts during the... Photo by Andrea Staccioli/LightRocket via Getty Images

The strength of Inter’s attacking talent really can’t be overstated. With Lautaro Martinez still playing for the Nerazzurri, Romelu Lukaku finding some blistering form, and Alexis Sanchez and Christian Eriksen getting used to life in Milan, you can definitely argue that Inter has the most well-rounded attacking corps on the Italian peninsula.

It would be a challenge for any manager to contain those attackers, and Fonseca is no exception. If Roma want a draw or a win from tomorrow’s match, it will require a defensive masterclass from the likes of Gianluca Mancini, Aleksandar Kolarov, and Roger Ibañez (who I’ll talk about more later).

Will Džeko Have Any Gas In The Tank?

AS Roma v Hellas Verona - Serie A Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Because Roma’s match against Hellas Verona wasn’t really put to bed until the final whistle, Edin Džeko played the whole 90 last time around. Although Džeko’s game isn’t really built on speed, it’s still concerning that after that performance, Fonseca will likely rely on the Bosnian Diamond up front. Father Time is undefeated, and while Džeko’s excellence can’t really be questioned at this point, he won’t be able to stick around at a Serie A level for much longer if he’s driven into the ground. Hopefully by the time the 2020-2021 season kicks off, a striker like Nahuel Bustos will be around to carry some of the weight for Džeko, allowing him to finally transition to a less dominant role in the Giallrossi’s attacking corps. Until then, though, it’s basically Džeko or Kalinic, which isn’t an encouraging thought.

No Nicolo, No Party?

AS Roma v Hellas Verona - Serie A Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

The media tried to turn a (correct) comment from Paulo Fonseca about Zaniolo’s attitude against Hellas into a firestorm, but thankfully that nothingburger has stayed exactly that. Unfortunately, though, The Kid won’t be available to help kick his former club to the curb yet again, as he was diagnosed with a tweaked calf today. His absence will certainly make life more difficult for the Giallorossi as they face Inter.

Granted, Roma went a long while without Zaniolo earlier in this season, but it’s undeniable that his presence on the field makes the entire squad look more menacing. His absence will most likely result in the return of either Justin Kluivert or Cengiz Ünder to the field, once again presenting the Dutchman and the Turk with a chance to find a way to stick around Rome in the long term. Personally, I hope that one of them can take the opportunity of a missing Zaniolo to force their way into perpetual starting eleven contention. I haven’t seen too much to convince me that that can happen, however.

Will The Ibañez Train Keep On Rolling?

AS Roma v Hellas Verona - Serie A Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Roger Ibañez has not-so-quietly become an important part of Roma’s defense over the past few weeks. We’ve already written in-depth about his development into quite a defending prospect, and it certainly seems like he could follow in the footsteps of the many great Brazilian defenders to ply their wares in Rome.

The question now is not whether or not Ibañez has talent; the past two weeks have confirmed that. Now we have to see if Ibañez has the talent to consistently perform, to become a real reliable option for Paulo Fonseca. If he can take on that role, it can shift a great deal of burden off of Federico Fazio and Chris Smalling, while allowing Roma to finally move on from Juan Jesus. His performances against big clubs like Inter will show us if he truly has the sauce.