Best odds: 13/5
AS Roma are set to welcome Inter Milan to the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday in a game that will be a part of the 17th round of this season’s Serie A roller coaster. Given the look of the table right now, it should be the most interesting one too.
Roma have done really well so far this season in the Italian top flight. After 16 rounds, they are in third place with 33 points, only four less than AC Milan at the top, and at this point, they seem to be serious runners for the title – it would be their first since 2000-01 and the days of Gabriel Batistuta.
Having finished in fifth place last season, the team led by Paulo Fonseca competes in the Europa League this term, and they’ve secured passage to the knockout stages by winning Group A, ahead of Young Boys, CFR Cluj and CSKA Sofia.
At the moment, Roma are on great form. They won five of their last six matches, beating Bologna away, Torino at home, Cagliari at home, Sampdoria at home and Crotone away. They lost only one, away to Atalanta.
Fonseca won’t be able to call upon forward Pedro Rodriguez, defender Federico Fazio and goalkeeper Antonio Mirante, in addition to long-term absentees, midfielders Nicolo Zaniolo and Javier Pastore.
Wide men Leonardo Spinazzola and Davide Santon are on their way back into contention after being injured, but their involvement in this game seems questionable at this point.
Yes, Roma have done well, but Inter are one of the the two teams in the Serie A who have done even better. The Nerazzurri sit in second place at the moment with 36 points, three more than Roma and only one less than their city rivals at the top. Like Roma, they are very much in the race to be the team to strip Juventus of the title for the first time in a decade.
Indeed, it seems that there are at least seven teams which might be crowned champions at the end of the season – even Napoli and Atalanta who, sitting in sixth and seventh place, respectively, have 28 points but also a game in hand on all the teams above except Juvenuts.
Inter have a slight advantage over their most serious rivals at this point, if it can be called that. They will have no Europe to distract them in the second half of the season after they finished bottom of Champions League Group B, behind Real Madrid, Borussia Monchengladbach and Shakhtar Donetsk.
As for their current form, Antonio Conte’s side have the same record as Roma in their last six outings – five wins (Cagliari away, Napoli at home, Spezia at home, Verona away and Crotone at home) and one defeat, a surprising one away to 11th-place Sampdoria.
Defender Danilo D’Ambrosio is set to be out for a long time, having injured the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in the previous game. Midfielder Mattia Vecino and striker Andrea Pinamonti are expected to miss out through injury as well, though it’s nothing as serious as with D’Ambrosio.
Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez are expected to pair up in attack in Conte’s preferred 3-5-2 shape, with Alexis Sanchez dropping to the bench after an unimpressive performance against Sampdoria.
This should be an extremely interesting contest between two finely balanced teams in terms of quality, and it could be decided by the smallest of details over the course of the 90 minutes. However, looking ahead towards it as objectively as possible, a share of the spoils seems not unlikely.
Best odds: 13/5