Roma 1-1 Inter: Mancini's men denied boost in Champions League bid

The Nerazzurri took the lead through Ivan Perisic but were unable to hold onto their lead in a game that ended in a stalemate – a result that benefits neither team

Roma held Inter to a 1-1 draw as Serie A’s principal contenders for Champions League qualification next season slugged it out on Saturday.The Nerazzurri had been looking to close to within three points of their hosts, who sit third and occupy the final berth for Europe’s elite competition, with a win.Ivan Perisic sent Inter on their way when he latched onto Marcelo Brozovic’s terrific ball to fire past Roma goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.Despite their best efforts to preserve their advantage, Roberto Mancini’s side were pegged back when Radja Nainggolan netted from Edin Dzeko’s scuffed effort.The draw means Roma remain five points clear of Inter in Serie A’s third and final Champions League spot. Both sides will eagerly await the result of Fiorentina, who drop to fifth as a result of Inter’s point, when they play at Frosinone on Sunday.
Roma are now unbeaten in seven home matches against Inter in Serie A, having not lost against them at Stadio Olimpico since 2008.Roma, who welcomed Antonio Rudiger back from injury and brought Miralem Pjanic back into the side, threatened first when Diego Perotti fired just over after good wing play from Stephan El Shaarawy set up the chance.
Inter – without injured captain Mauro Icardi – made a decent response, with Adem Ljajic shooting straight at Szczesny against his parent club and Perisic sending an effort just over.
Brozovic could not trouble Szczesny from a decent opening, before Roma had the ball in the net at the other end.
Pjanic floated a wonderful ball over the top and Mohamed Salah showed great composure to control and flick his finish over Samir Handanovic, but he had strayed narrowly offside.
The hosts finished the first half on the front foot and persistence from Salah gave El Shaarawy a chance to shoot, but Handanovic made a solid stop from his acrobatic volley.
El Shaarawy forced Handanovic into action again with 30 seconds of the second half gone, but it was Inter who moved into the lead after 53 minutes.
Brozovic slipped through a pass to Perisic and his left-footed strike found the far corner, despite Szczesny getting a hand to the ball.
Luciano Spalletti responded by bringing on Dzeko, who had been left out of the team even though he had scored against Udinese last time out.
The striker was quickly involved in the action with two chances in quick succession. His header from Perotti’s cross was first well saved by Handanovic after appearing to touch the hand of Miranda on the way through, before he poorly lashed a shot over when Salah’s pass had given him a presentable opportunity.
Roma continued to press and El Shaarawy found the side netting, while Salah was denied by another Handanovic save after a neat turn in the area.
The assault continued and Inter defender Yuto Nagatomo had to hack clear from the line during a goalmouth scramble, before the equaliser arrived.
A scuffed effort from Dzeko inadvertently set up Nainggolan and he stretched to fire a low shot into the bottom corner to claim a point, keeping his side in pole position to reach the Champions League.

Icardi out of Roma clash

The Nerazzurri captain was set to be assessed on Saturday after damaging knee ligaments last weekend, yet will now miss the crucial Serie A clash

Inter captain Mauro Icardi has been ruled out of Saturday’s trip to fellow Champions League hopefuls Roma.

Nerazzurri boss Roberto Mancini stated earlier in the day that the striker’s fitness would be assessed on Saturday after he sustained medial knee ligament damage in last weekend’s 2-1 defeat of Bologna.

But when the squad to travel to the capital was named later in the day, Icardi’s name was conspicuous by its absence.

There was better news, however, on Geoffrey Kondogbia with the powerful midfielder included.

“Geoffrey Kondogbia has trained and he’s okay. He’ll travel to Rome and we’ll see whether he can play.”

The clash at the Stadio Olimpico is key with both teams seeking at least a place in next season’s Champions League.
READ MORE  | Inter confirm Icardi knee damage

Inter are fifth, two places and five points adrift of third-placed Roma, but Mancini doesn’t believe the tie is pivotal in the race to qualify for Europe’s elite club competition.

“The players know it’s a big match, I don’t know if it’s decisive. We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” Mancini added.

“There are 27 points to play for, an awful lot. I still believe it’s open.

“Roma started out this championship with the aim of winning it. I always said that there were three or four teams that were stronger than us, and now they’re back to form.

“My regret is that we lost so many games in the second half of the season, especially as some of those losses were undeserved. If we win tomorrow, we’ll be well-placed.”

M'Vila: I didn't fit in at Inter

The France international believes that he showed up well in training at Italy but was overlooked by his coach because his “face didn’t fit”

Sunderland midfielder Yann M’Vila believes he was unable to fit in under Roberto Mancini during his time at Inter.

The France international struggled for game time at the Serie A outfit during his spell on loan from Rubin Kazan last season.

M’Vila started just three league games for Inter, with Walter Mazzarri replaced by Mancini early in the campaign.

The 25-year-old said he impressed in training but was never given an opportunity by the former Manchester City manager.

“I was fantastic in training at Inter Milan,” M’Vila told The Guardian .

“I worked hard. I was sometimes better than other players. It was just that my face didn’t fit. I had nothing to be ashamed about.”
READ MORE  | Inter confirm Icardi injury

M’Vila has a reputation as being a fiery character, and he lived up to that when he was sent off on debut for Sunderland’s Under-21s last year.

But the former Rennes man insists he has grown up, pointing to his record in the Premier League this season.

“It was far from a headbutt, I just pushed him,” M’Vila said about the Under-21s incident.

“But I have done some bad things in my life; I’ve made some mistakes. Every time, though, I’ve always admitted it and I’ve paid for it.

“I would always say I tell the truth – and I think I’ve definitely matured a lot. Look at the stats this season. I’ve played about 30 games and had one yellow card.”

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.