Inter Milan has the Scudetto wrapped up and Roma is counting down the days until the José Mourinho era officially begins. We can't lie, there isn't a great sense of urgency ahead of Roma's Matchday 36 trip to the San Siro but that doesn't necessarily mean this match is short on talking points.
To get a better feel for the ins and outs of Inter's title-winning season, we reached out to our colleagues at the Serpents of Madonnina, and David McFarland was kind enough to respond. You can catch the flip side of this conversation at SoM, where I waxed semi poetically about Mourinho's arrival and Fonseca’s departure, among other things.
Inter Milan vs. Roma: May 12th. 20:45 CET/2:45 EDT. San Siro, Milano
Please enjoy the conversation and give us your thoughts in the comments section.
First off, congrats on the Scudetto and thank you for ending Juve’s decade-long run. It may be too soon to tell, but do you think Inter is primed to take Juve’s place as the league’s dominant force? What has to go right in order for that to happen?
Serpents of Madonnina; Thanks! With the current state of Juve in mind, it might seem like the door is open for an Inter dynasty. It won’t be that easy, however. The Nerazzurri’s financial situation is a mess and the club will need to cut costs over the summer. While the Italian media would like you to believe that means the sale of every major player and Antonio Conte’s exit, in reality, the situation is less dramatic. The departures of veterans on expensive wages (Vidal, Sanchez) along with Inter’s loanees could give Inter breathing space if buyers can be found, but any sort of major signing is probably out of the question. Conte’s contract expires in the summer of 2022 and he’ll certainly want assurances that serious investment will be possible again. For next season, just keeping hold of the starting eleven is enough. At worst, Inter could land in the top four but the goal has to be to defend the title. A second title in a row would go a long way towards solidifying Inter’s spot at the top of the table and proving that this season wasn’t just an exception to the rule.
Since we talked about Mourinho in your Q&A, tell us what memories you have of his time at Inter. What should Roma fans be excited about and what should we worry about with Mourinho as our new manager?
SoM: I confess to not supporting Inter during that incredible treble-winning season, much to my immense regret. In the Inter community in general Mourinho is regarded as a hero. He’s forever a champion in Inter’s history and without him, the Nerazzurri never get anywhere near three trophies in 2010. As for his appointment at Roma, there’s a sense of relief that the Special One isn’t going to a direct rival like Juventus or Milan. For the Interisti that witnessed Mourinho’s best moments at Inter, seeing him in the colors of such fierce opponents as those two would be a tough pill to swallow. That’s not to say he can’t take Roma to the top of Italy, but there isn’t the bad blood between Inter and the Giallorossi compared to Juve and Milan.
If your memories aren’t that fresh, what’s the outsider’s view of this hire? Are you skeptical that The Special One still has it or is this the first step to Roma becoming a threat to the Nerazzurri?
SoM: While a Sarri-like hire is a much safer bet, I think Mourinho is too good an opportunity to pass up. His struggles at Tottenham and Manchester are well-documented but it seems like the Friedkin’s want to make a statement. If given backing in the market, I could see him be a match for Roma. Am I glad it’s not my club where Mourinho is heading? Yes. Do I think this has the potential to be a massive win for both parties? For sure. It might take time, or it might fail miserably, but from an uninvolved perspective, Roma have nothing to lose and perhaps a great deal to gain. I for one will be giving the Eternal City special attention next season.
Aside from Lukaku, who were the key players in Inter’s title run? Were there any surprise performers? Any players who actually underperformed?
SoM: Lukaku has been the kingpin behind the Scudetto, but it’s largely been a team effort. Inter’s ability to keep the opposition off the scoresheet has meant a single goal is enough for the three points, and all but a handful of Inter’s wins throughout the Spring have been by scorelines of 1-0 and 2-1. The center back trio of Bastoni-de Vrij-Skriniar has been vital to the Nerazzurri’s defensive exploits. Marcelo Brozovic is the metronome in the center, while Eriksen and Barella complete the midfield. Hakimi and Perisic provide threats from the wing, but their defensive workload goes understated. Lukaku and Lautaro are on the scoresheet more often than not, but Inter can hurt the opposition in countless ways. It’s been because so many of those players took their game to the next level this season that Inter are the champions and it’s no easy task deciding which names to get on the back of next season’s kits. As for underperforming, only Eriksen was playing below expectations up until January, but he’s since massively improved. In fact, he’s now a locked-in starter and scored the Scudetto clinching goal against Crotone.
With the title already wrapped up, what kind of squad will Conte field on Wednesday? Are there any intriguing young players we might catch a look at this weekend?
SoM: There were six changes from the first-choice XI over the weekend against Sampdoria, so I would expect the other half of the roster to get the starting nod Wednesday. In fact, the Nerazzuri had an inter-squad scrimmage in training last week, and the starters from Saturday were identical to the losing team in the scrimmage. If that was more than just a coincidence, 21-year-old Andrea Pinamonti and 23-year-old keeper Andrei Radu will start against Roma alongside more regular contributors like Lukaku and Barella. Pinamonti and Radu have barely featured over the course of the season but both made promising appearances vs Samp. The complete first-choice XI, however, will be reserved to attempt to heap further misery on Juventus Saturday.
In seven words or less, tell us what it’s like to actually see your team win something.
SoM: Worth the wait.
Lastly, give us a prediction for this match.
SoM: With Inter playing without any pressure and both teams notching five over the weekend, goals certainly seem on the cards. I’ll go with a 3-2 win for the Nerazzurri in a back-and-forth encounter. We’ll see a Lukaku brace canceled out by goals for Borja Mayoral and Pedro, but Alexis Sanchez will tally the game-winner.
Big thanks to David for this time. Don't miss tomorrow's match, if nothing else, we're likely to see at least a dozen fresh faces between the two clubs.