Italian first division leaders AS Roma can put a bad week behind them when they visit Internazionale FC on Sunday night.
Goal difference alone divides the two teams at the top of Serie A. Yet they were at polar extremes in terms of the emotions they experienced in midweek. For Inter there was the joy of a 1-0 win at Valencia CF which put them in the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup. But for Roma, defeats on and off the pitch in the UEFA Champions League. The misery of their Group B elimination by Liverpool FC was compounded by a UEFA punishment for the club's part in the mass brawl that followed their recent match against Galatasaray SK.
Concentrating on the league
Not surprisingly, Roma coach Fabio Capello wants to concentrate on the league. "We are hoping to continue our positive run," he said. The champions are unbeaten since Christmas with five wins and six draws from eleven games. However, there will be no Inter roll-over at San Siro. "They are a very good side, hard-working and well organized, and will have the psychological advantage of a good midweek result against Valencia [in the UEFA Cup]," Capello continued.
'A three-horse race'
The worry for Roma is that a stalemate could lift the title hopes of third-placed Juventus FC, who lost 1-0 against lowly Parma AC on Saturday. "It looks like a three-horse race and I don't want to make predictions. We are going to Milan to win and to get the lift this club needs," insisted the former Milan AC trainer.
Montella gets nod
With just one injured player, in defender Saliou Lassissi, Capello's main selection dilemma is in attack. Vincenzo Montella should continue alongside Marco Delvecchio in preference to Gabriel Batistuta. "I think he'll play," Capello said of the striker who has netted six times in his last two games, against S.S. Lazio and Atalanta BC. However, Capello is equally aware of the threat posed by Inter's forwards: Alvaro Recoba is "in great form" while Christian Vieri "can be unplayable".
Inter's moment of truth
Inter coach Héctor Cúper repays the compliment. "Anything can happen with the likes of Montella and [Francesco] Totti. I won't sleep a lot tonight," he admitted on Saturday. Little wonder when you consider what is at stake; the black-and-blue half of Milan has not celebrated a Scudetto win since 1989. "This is a key moment for us," continued the Argentinian. "If we win, it will be a big step towards the title. We would take great confidence from a victory, which would help us in the run-in. It is important for us to go out there wanting to win. I want use to have at least 50 per cent of possession and to use the ball well when we have it."
Missing from the action
Inter, whose last defeat came at Bologna FC five rounds ago, will miss the suspended Andrés Guglielminpietro as well as the injured Okan Buruk, Grigorios Georgatos, Pasquale Padalino, Gonzalo Sorondo and Nelson Vivas. Not enough to damage their chances, according to Capello. "Cúper has a big enough squad at his disposal," he said.
A wounded animal
The real hurting this week has been done by Roma, and Cúper warns his team to beware a wounded animal at the Giuseppe Meazza. "Everyone reacts to going out of the European cups in their own way," he said. "Roma will put everything into the league now. They are hurting, but they have had four days to get over it and focus on Sunday's game." Inter have been warned.
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