Friday, 2 February 2007

Scudetto Showdown: Inter v Roma

Inter's dominance in Italy has drawn comparisons with the likes of cyclist Alfredo Binda, who was paid not to compete in the 1930 Giro d'Italia after winning the previous four editions too easily, or all-conquering Swiss tennis player Roger Federer. On Sunday, the Nerazzurri entertain Roma in a game that looks as close as it gets to a match point.

Roberto Mancini's side remain unbeaten in Serie A this season and go into the match on the back of a record-breaking streak of 14 victories. Another win against their closest rivals would give them a 14-point lead and would make taking the title little more than a formality.

Inter were Roma's bogey team in 2006 as the two clubs crossed swords five times. A last-minute Marco Materazzi goal in a 1-1 draw on 5 March ended Roma's record eleven-game winning run. Inter then beat the Giallorossi 4-2 on aggregate in the two-legged Coppa Italia final, before coming back from 3-0 down to win 4-3 and lift the SuperCoppa Italia in August. One month later the sides met again in Serie A at the Stadio Olimpico and Inter prevailed 1-0 courtesy of Hernan Crespo's strike.

Roma are eager to buck the trend and believe they can still compete for the Scudetto. "If we beat Inter, the championship race will be on again," said midfielder David Pizarro, whose playing licence is partly owned by Inter. "I'm sure we can beat Inter, especially if we play as we did against AC Milan in the cup on Thursday," said Italian international Daniele De Rossi. Roma overcame Milan 3-1 for a 5-3 aggregate triumph that set up a third consecutive Coppa Italia final match against Inter.

Roma could be without defender Philippe Mexes who is nursing a left-foot injury, while Inter striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has not trained this week after receiving a knock to his head while scoring against Sampdoria last Sunday. Crespo could replace the Swede as Adriano's attacking partner. In-form defender Nicolas Burdisso will miss out through suspension, with Ivan Cordoba deputising.

"We face the team who are second in Serie A, a team who are playing very good football and can cause us problems," Mancini said. "Obviously there is great pressure ahead of a game like this. Even if we win, we will have to fight until the end to win the Scudetto, but it would become much more difficult for Roma to catch us." Inter are ready to serve their match point.

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