Ever since Romelu Lukaku’s move to AS Roma became official, one date in particular was circled and then circled again on the calendar: Sunday, October 29th. That’s when the Belgian is set to return to the San Siro just months after abandoning Inter first for Juventus, and then eventually Roma. Everyone from Interisti to his old teammates haven’t made their feelings a secret, and they aren’t quite complementary. It will, in other words, be a highly charged atmosphere (featuring 50,000 whistles to be handily given out by the Curva Nord according to reports) when Inter and Roma square off in this weekend’s marquee matchup.
It’s a marquee occasion for more than just the Lukaku reunion (and no, it’s not Jose Mourinho, who’ll be suspended thanks to a red card) - the game on the pitch promises to be quite intriguing as well. After a dreadful start to the season with 1 win in its first 6, Roma has won three in a row by an aggregate score of 7-1 and climbed to 7th on 14 points, three out of the top four. Those three wins came against Frosinone, Cagliari, and Monza, however, so this will be the first real test of Roma’s mini-revival. It’s also won three straight in the Europe League, but again against limited opposition. There are some reasons to think the Giallorossi could cause Inter some serious problems, though, starting with the frontline. Roma has the second-best attack in the league with 20 goals scored, including 5 from Lukaku and 3 goals and 2 assists from the flop of last season, Andrea Belotti. Paulo Dybala (2g, 2a), meanwhile, is questionable for Sunday with injury but his talent is undeniable. Roma’s midfield is also capable of finding the net through summer arrivals Leandro Paredes (3a) and Houssem Aouar (2g), who have become immediate starters in the Eternal City.
Defensively, on the other hand, Roma is the 7th worst in the league with 12 conceded thanks in large part to Rui Patricio. Despite conceding only 7.7 expected goals against, the Portuguese keeper has let in 12 and been one of the worst keepers not only in Italy, but also Europe. With even just average netminding, Roma could be substantially higher in the table as its expected goal differential (the 4th best in Serie A) would suggest. For Inter’s sake, let’s hope that regression to the mean is delayed at least another week.
Speaking of the Nerazzurri, Juventus’ 1-0 win at Milan last week meant the top spot is back in the good guys’ hands, but only barely. Inter’s 22 points is one clear of Milan and two of Juve, so it’s going to need to stay perfect to stay first. With Roma and Atalanta on the way in the next week, Simone Inzaghi’s men will be put to quite the test, but it’s the type of test Scudetto contenders should find a way to pass.
Inter has a 95W-57D-62L lead in the all-time series, with each away team winning last season.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Inter Milan 3-2 AS Roma
Inter will slow Roma’s roll with a wild, back-and-forth 3-2 win, including a classic Law of the Ex goal provided by Lukaku, but a Lautaro brace will prove the difference.