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Roma v Inter: Ljajic knows victory is needed against former club

The Giallorossi have put together an excellent run of eight straight league wins ahead of their clash against the Nerazzurri, which is crucial in the race for a top-three finish

Adem Ljajic is well aware of the importance of Inter’s mouth-watering clash against high-flying Roma in Serie A on Saturday.

The playmaker takes on his former club when Inter travel to Stadio Olimpico and face the team who sit third in the standings, five points clear of the Nerazzurri in the race to qualify for the Champions League with nine games to go.

And ahead of the match, Ljajic admits he never expected to be meeting Roma in such a pivotal clash because he felt they would be Scudetto candidates this season.

“Before the beginning of the season I would never have said this match would be decisive for the Champions League,” he told Premium Sport.

“I thought Roma would be fighting for the Scudetto, but here we are. It will be a very important game, especially for us as we are five points behind. 

“We have to try and win to reach third place, which is very important for us. It is not a grudge match for me – I was very happy at Roma. I had two wonderful years there and made many friends who will be with me for life.

“The city is beautiful and I love the club, but in my head now there is only Inter. lt will be a special game for me and I will experience many emotions, but I’m just thinking about giving everything for my team. We will see who wins.”

Inter have won three of their last four league matches but are behind Roma in the form table, with Luciano Spalletti’s men having put together a run of eight straight top-flight wins.

Mancini’s men have won their last two league games against Roma and the last time they won three in a row was back in 1998.

But Roma have not lost at home to Inter since October 2008 and Spalletti will know that victory would all but kill off the visitors’ Champions League qualification hopes.

“We are doing some good things but I think there is always room for improvement,” he said.

“That is where our focus needs to be – on achieving our next goal. The players feel more confident in their ability. We needed to help them show that more. 

“Over the last two years the team has finished near the top of the table twice and that’s because there was good work done here before. 

“That said, the league is more competitive this year than it was last time around – top players have come back to Serie A and that’s driven the level of the Italian game back up.”

Hosts Roma hope to welcome back Antonio Rudiger (arm), but are still expected to be without Norbert Gyomber (foot).

Inter are hoping that captain Mauro Icardi can recover in time to play some part in the match after suffering a knee problem against Bologna last time out. 

Rodrigo Palacio is suspended and Stevan Jovetic (muscular problem) has not played in the league since February 20. 

Key Opta Stats:

– Both sides have won twice each in the last six meetings between them, with two draws. 
– Roma have conceded a goal in five of their last six home league games.
– Inter have kept only one clean sheet in their last 11 league games.
– The Nerazzurri have gained only two points in their last five away games: their worst run since February 2014.
– Roma have scored the most goals in Serie A this season. They have also scored the most first-half (28) and second-half goals this season (33). 

Thohir puts faith in Mancini for Inter's 'five-year plan'

The Nerazzurri president believes the former Manchester City manager will remain in charge at San Siro, even if the club misses out on Champions League qualification

Inter president Erick Thohir is confident that Roberto Mancini will remain in charge beyond the end of this season.

The former Manchester City boss guided Inter to the top of Serie A during the first half of 2015-16, but a decline in form over January and February saw them slip outside of the Champions League places.

With Inter having spent large sums on the likes of Geoffrey Kondogbia and Ivan Perisic, speculation has emerged in Italy that Mancini may not survive a failure to secure a top-three league finish.

But Thohir insists he has faith in the 51-year-old as part of Inter’s wider “five-year plan” to re-establish their supremacy in Italy’s top flight.

“His contract lasts until 2017, I don’t think we’ll talk about it now,” he told the media at a sponsor event. “I think he will stay.

“The management supports him in every way, and the reason for getting him was to get Inter into the Champions League – he and the players must prove that they are at that level.

“We have a five-year plan. We’re aiming for the Champions League, but if we don’t make it then we’ll focus on the Europa League.
READ MORE  | Inter confirm Icardi injury

“The numbers we’ve spent in the market tell us we’re fine for the Europa League, while if we get to the Champions League then there is room for further additions.

“There’s a strategy. We’ve got a lot of new players and we’ve supported the project every step of the way. On the other hand, we need the results, and we want to achieve that with Mancini.

“On January 6 we were in the lead, so we’d not only be in the top three, but possibly Scudetto winners. It’s very important to be aligned with our objectives.

“We’ve had good results and we want to achieve our objectives, but it’s not the end of the world if we don’t succeed, because we’ll keep going until our goal is achieved.”

Inter, who have won their last two league games against Palermo and Bologna, are currently fifth and five points behind third-placed Roma in the race for Champions League qualification.