Inter Milan vs. Roma, preview: Season's biggest surprises do battle Saturday

Paolo Bruno

Rudi Garcia's new-look Roma are perfect through six games, while Inter, under Walter Mazzarri, have yet to lose a match. Do the hosts stand a chance of toppling Roma from the top of the table?

Inter Milan and AS Roma came into this season amid skepticism from the fans, after horrible previous seasons and a not-so-exciting transfer market (particularly for Inter). The teams, both under new managers, have both silenced the doubters: Through six games, the nerazzurri are without a defeat, but Roma have surprised even more, winning all six, including the derby against Lazio.

More from our team blogs: Inter Milan Offside | Roma blog Chiesa Di Totti

Something's gotta give on Saturday at the San Siro: either Inter will lose, or Roma's perfection will be tarnished. Whatever the outcome, both sides will almost certainly remain in contention for a Champions League spot, and chatter about a scudetto will likely continue. Both squads remain weaker than some of their rivals, but it helps that neither Inter nor Roma have to expend energy on European competition, able to fully focus on Serie A.

The nerazzurri drew with Cagliari last time around, but, perhaps more worryingly, Inter failed to impress against a mid-table side. Their performance showed obvious flaws, such as a lack of creativity in the midfield. Walter Mazzarri prefers to rely upon midfield destroyers, so players such as the young Croatian gem Mateo Kovacic are relegated to the bench. Although his Inter side doesn't have as many quick players as his former club Napoli, Mazzarri continues to set up his sides to hit on the counter. His Inter manages to create problems on the break, often by launching long passes for either one of the attackers or offensively-minded wing backs. In other words, losing Jonathan, who is well suited to Mazzarri's system, for this match is a big blow for the hosts.

Rodrigo Palacio has been the focal point of the nerazzurri's attack in most games this season, Ricardo Alvarez playing behind in a 3-5-1-1 formation. It's rumored that Mazzarri may start fan favorite Diego Milito from the first minute, but, particularly after last weekend's failed adjustments, it's more likely the experienced tactician won't take a risk. A bigger worry for Inter is the absence of center back Hugo Campagnaro, expected to be replaced with Rolando.

The absence of Campagnaro takes on greater significance when put into context, with Roma having scored 17 goals thus far, including five in their victory over Bologna last week. After last season's risky coaching appointments, it seems like Roma have hit the jackpot with Rudi Garcia. In him the giallorossi found a coach much more pragmatic than spectacular -- although that doesn't mean Roma's football isn't exciting. Garcia may not employ Zdenek Zeman's gung-ho philosophy, but they've scored the most goals thus far in the campaign all while (unlike under Zeman) limiting opposition goals to just one scored.

Rudi Garcia is not only a quality tactician, he also is good at player management, rotating his squad, giving chances and making them all feel like part of one big giallorossi family. For this match, Garcia will have to do without Maicon, while super sub Adem Ljajic is a doubt.

Garcia's flexibility enables him to adapt to the opposition, usually making tweaks to his favorite 4-3-3 formation. Roma's fullbacks like to get forward, overloading the opponent on both wings. But with Inter's wingbacks set to start deadly counter-attacks, Garcia may instruct his players to be a little more conservative going forward. Continuing to protect the back line will be Kevin Strootman, an invaluable summer investment, alongside capitan futuro Daniele De Rossi. The pair excel not only at disrupting the other side's attack, but are also skillful players able to keep possession of the ball when needed.

Inter Milan injuries and suspensions

Jonathan, Hugo Campagnaro, Javier Zanetti, Cristian Chivu (injured)

AS Roma injuries and suspensions

Mattia Destro, Michael Bradley, Maicon (injured); Adem Ljajic (in doubt)

Projected line ups

Inter Milan (3-5-1-1): Samir Handanovic; Rolando, Andrea Ranocchia, Juan Jesus; Yuto Nagatomo, Saphir Taider, Esteban Cambiasso, Freddy Guarin; Ricardo Alvarez; Rodrigo Palacio

AS Roma (4-3-3): Morgan De Sanctis; Vasilis Torosidis, Leandro Castan, Mehdi Benatia, Federico Balzaretti; Miralem Pjanic, Daniele De Rossi, Kevin Strootman; Alessandro Florenzi, Francesco Totti, Gervinho

Match date/time

Saturday, October 5, 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET

Venue

Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan

TV

Sky Calcio 1 (Italy), BT Sport 1 (UK), RAI Internazionale

Online

beIN Sport Play (USA)

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