Don't look now, but thanks to their current five-match unbeaten streak in all competitions, Roma is the hottest team in Serie A, if not Europe itself. Fueled by the resurgent trio of Stephan El Shaarawy, Romelu Lukaku, and Andrea Belotti, the Giallorossi have nearly erased the toil of late summer and early fall, exchanging bitterness and disappointment for hope and optimism.
Roma's recent successes have given their fans reason to be optimistic, and for good reason. The team has demonstrated their ability to win in a variety of circumstances, from high-scoring victories over Servette and Cagliari to the close call against Monza. They've also secured less flashy but equally important wins against Frosinone and Slavia Prague. These results are a testament to José Mourinho's leadership and the team's ability to adapt to different challenges.
While that's all well and good, Sunday's challenge, a trip to the San Siro to face league-leading Inter Milan, will be the club's stiffest one yet. A win over Inter won't necessarily vault Roma back into the top four, but it could make a mess of the league table. And that chaos could create opportunity for the Giallorossi further down the line.
Before we concern ourselves with the Champions League, we must first fret about Sunday's fixture. So read along as we look at a couple of the key plot points in Roma's quest to upset Inter.
And we'll start with the most obvious narrative.
Romelu Out for Revenge?
For as great as he is (215 league goals and counting), Romelu Lukaku has had a rather strange career, playing for eight different clubs while also serving separate, non-consecutive stints at Chelsea and Inter Milan, amassing a whopping €339.22 million in transfer fees, according to Transfermarkt. No one has ever doubted his talent, but Lukaku has struggled to find a safe harbor throughout his career.
But through it all, the bulky Belgian striker has been a double-figure goal-scoring machine, tallying at least 10 league goals in nine of his last eleven seasons. And while he notched 10 goals for Inter in roughly 1,600 minutes last season, Lukaku left the Nerazzurri on bad terms, with the relationship reaching its nadir after his horrific showing against Manchester City in the Champions League final.
When taken with his own goal in the 2020 Europa League against Sevilla, Inter fans weren't exactly singing the 30-year-old's praises last season. But with Lukaku in scintillating form at the moment (seven goals in his previous eight matches for club and country), Roma's number 90 would surely savor the chance to steal three points from his former employer, silencing the San Siro in the process.
Either way, if Lukaku plays, it promises to be quite the scene at the San Siro on Sunday.
Inter's Three-Headed Monster
With only two points separating them from second-place AC Milan, Inter doesn't exactly have a commanding lead at the top of the table, but make no mistake: they are formidable. With 24 goals scored and only five conceded, Inter boasts the league's most prolific attack and stingiest defense.
And much of that +19 goal differential is due to the combined powers of Lautaro Martinez (league-leading 11 goals), Marcus Thuram (league-leading five assists), and Hakan Calhanoglu, who has accounted for 25 goals + assists in nine matches. Just like Roma have been riding on Lukaku's back the past several weeks, Inter would be sunk were it not for these three, who have slotted home 10 of the club's last 12 goals.
The good news is Roma should welcome Chris Smalling back to the fold this weekend. The veteran English center-back has been shelved with tendonitis since mid-September. While he's not likely to start on Sunday, Mourinho's defense has rounded into shape over the past few weeks, with the club pitching four shutouts in their last five matches.
We're not suggesting a backline comprised of Evan Ndicka, Diego Llorente, and Gianluca Mancini can slay this monster, but they're riding a heater at the moment, and confidence can cure a lot of ills.
Besides, if all else fails, Mancini can open up an old facial wound and just scare the living daylights out of them. It is Halloween, after all.