Serie A: Roma v Inter Milan

Stramaccioni

Andrea Stramaccioni

Two of Serie A’s top six meet when Roma and Inter Milan clash at the Stadio Olimpico (7.45pm GMT, Sunday, live on ESPN).

Roma are sixth in the table with 32 points from 10 wins, two draws and eight defeats, but have lost three of their last four league matches, including last weekend’s 1-0 defeat away to Catania.

The Giallorossi dominated possession and had more shots than their hosts, but were unable to turn their supremacy into goals. They paid the ultimate price when Alejandro Gomez broke in behind the Roma defence and clipped a lovely finish over Mauro Goicoechea to ensure the three points stayed in Sicily.

It was only the second time this season that Roma have failed to score, and although this may, in part, be explained by the absence through injury of Francesco Totti and Pablo Osvaldo, it will nevertheless have been a worrying spectacle for coach Zdenek Zeman.

Zeman is a coach who believes in attack above anything else and his approach, facilitated by an aggressive 4-3-3 formation, has yielded impressive results in so far as the number of goals his side have scored. Roma lead Serie A’s scoring charts with 43 goals from their 20 matches.

Erik Lamela has been the principle beneficiary of Zeman’s methods, playing higher up the pitch than he did under Luis Enrique last season and showing a keen eye for goal with 10 in 16 appearances. Osvaldo, too, has 10 to date, while the evergreen Totti has six goals and six assists to his credit.

The Giallorossi have been less impressive defensively, however, conceding 34, the third-worst record in the division. Their back four have rarely looked comfortable with Zeman’s proactive offside trap, which has been badly exposed at times, most notably in away defeats to Juventus and Napoli.

Roma certainly cannot rely on their defence to get them through if their forwards are misfiring and Zeman will therefore be keen to ensure there is no drop off in offensive output in the second half of the season.

Inter Milan are four places ahead of Roma in fourth with 38 points from 12 wins, two draws and six defeats.

The Nerazzurri continued the restructuring of their playing staff that had begun in January 2012 over the summer, bringing in eight new players and clearing out some of the last vestiges of the side who won the Champions League under Jose Mourinho in 2010.

They understandably suffered from patchy form in the opening weeks of the season, winning two and losing two of their opening four matches. They then embarked on an impressive winning run thereafter, reinvigorated by coach Andrea Stramaccioni’s decision to switch to a three-man defence.

Inter recorded seven straight victories, culminating in a 3-1 win away to Juventus in early November that broke the Vecchia Signora’s 49-match unbeaten record and allowed Stramaccioni’s side to close to within a point of them at the top of the table.

At that juncture, Inter seemed the most credible challengers to Juve’s title defence, but four defeats, two draws and just three victories in their subsequent nine matches have seen them fall away from the sharp end of the table. They are now seven points behind Juventus, with hopes of a title bid fast fading.

Inter’s poor recent form can be explained by any number of factors, chiefly an ever expanding injury list. It must also be brought into consideration that this is a young team, made up primarily of players who have been at the club for a year or less, and one stewarded by a coach without any previous senior level experience.

Stramaccioni’s men are still within reach of the top three – just four points behind Napoli and Lazio in second and third – and provided they can get key players back to full fitness in the near future are capable of a strong second half of the season and an ascension into one of the three Champions League qualifying positions.

Roma v Inter Milan Betting Tips

Roma triumphed 3-1 when these sides met at the San Siro earlier this season and we expect Sunday’s encounter to be just as entertaining.

Inter have lost each of their four away matches since their win at Juventus in early November, twice conceding three goals. Roma have recorded four consecutive home victories during the same period, scoring four goals on three separate occasions.

With Inter bearing an extended absence list and Francesco Totti returning to the home side’s starting eleven, we believe a high-scoring Roma victory is the most likely outcome.