Inter 2.00 The Draw 3.50 Roma 3.70
Zdenek Zeman’s return did not disappoint. Well, not for the neutral anyway. The Roma manager himself had an air of deep frustration as he addressed the press following his team’s draw with Catania on Serie A’s opening weekend, but for the non-partisan section of the audience it had been a treat. A sold-out Stadio Olimpico witnessed 90 minutes of end-to-end football that brought four goals: including a spectacular overhead strike.
If the quality of the football itself was mixed, then this was at least the sort of entertainment that fans came to expect during Zeman’s previous tenure at the club, 13 years ago. A proponent of direct, high-tempo, football, the manager’s greatest lament over his team’s performance did not regard the defensive lapses that almost cost them even a point but instead the fact he had seen too much “pointless” sideways passing.
It all bodes well for his team’s meeting with Inter on Sunday. “The fuel of Zeman on the firework show that is Inter v Roma,” exclaimed the newspaper Il Messaggero breathlessly this week as they looked ahead to the match. Already this fixture had a long history of providing explosive and entertaining encounters. One of the final games of Zeman’s previous stint with Roma, indeed, had been a 5-4 defeat to the Nerazzurri.
Inter, too, have shown their capacity for volatility already this season – defeating Hajduk Split 3-0 in the first leg of a Europa League qualifier, only to nearly throw that lead away during a 2-0 defeat at home in the return fixture. Similarly, after winning 2-0 away to FC Vaslui in the next round, they twice fell behind in the second leg at San Siro before eventually drawing 2-2. “Without palpitations,” mused Gazzetta dello Sport, “What sort of Inter would it be?”
Indeed, if Roma were looking for encouragement ahead of Sunday’s game, they might note that although Inter have won their three away games so far this season by a combined margin of 8-0, they are yet to win a match at San Siro. The sample size, admittedly, is still tiny and may reflect more on the manager Andrea Stramaccioni’s squad rotation than anything else, but it may also be true that Inter are still adjusting to a new, partially synthetic, pitch at their home ground.
Either way, the expectation is that Zeman’s Roma will attack their hosts, with the manager trying out a bold three-man attack of Francesco Totti, Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, and Mattia Destro in training this week. The latter, a 21-year-old forward signed from Siena this summer, would be making his debut for the club after missing last week’s game through suspension. He earned his first Italy cap against England earlier this month.
Unsurprisingly in the context of such potentially aggressive selections, the odds look unusually short in the over/under market. Is over 3.5 total goals still worth a punt at 2.15? Instinct suggests that it still might be, though you might want to wait and see if Inter’s first-choice goalkeeper – the excellent Samir Handanovic, signed from Udinese this summer – is fit to play after a small knee operation earlier this month. Otherwise Inter will again rely on the veteran Luca Castellazzi.
Given Roma’s repeated defensive lapses last week, a wager on Inter to score in both halves at 2.5 might be a slightly more lucrative route than the over/under. If you’re looking for a possible bet in the scorers’ market, then it’s worth noting that Inter’s Diego Milito - at 5.25 to score first - trails only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi when it comes to connecting ball with net across Europe’s top leagues so far in 2012 as a calendar year.
Score prediction: Inter Milan 3-2 Roma at 18.00.