AC Milan 3-0 Inter : Rossoneri resilience

The eagerly anticipated derby della Madonnina was again expected to be a tight affair, with both sides needing a win. Mancini’s Inter had suffered a significant dip in form since their loss to Lazio just before Christmas, and needed 3 points to keep in touch with the leaders. Mihajlovic, on the other hand, had experienced a period of renewed confidence and better performances from his team – not perfect, but signs of definite improvement. Tonight he made one change, bringing in Kucka for Bertolacci in central midfield in the 4-4-2. Mancini made the decision to include Santon at right-back, which seemed surprising in a game of this magnitude, and handed Eder his debut alongside Jovetic – not his former team-mate Icardi.

AC Milan vs Inter Milan - Football tactics and formations

Early tempo

The game started in reasonably lively fashion, after a short wait for Montolivo and Juan Jesus to plant a tree, with attacking intent from both sides. It was Milan who controlled the first couple of minutes, getting numbers forward, with Abate putting in a cross and Niang having a positive run at the opposition defence. This quickly turned into a period of pressure for Inter, who stretched the Milan defence from a great pass forward by Perisic to put Eder away down the right. Romagnoli was caught pushing up on Eder and left space in behind. Unfortunately the new signing couldn’t find anyone in the middle. Mihajlovic would probably have been slightly worries about Inter isolating and targeting Romagnoli early on, after previous displays of edginess – for example against Roma recently. Eder was involved again shortly after, with a cross coming into the box from Jesus meeting him in the box, but the header was bizarrely off target from what seemed like a great opportunity to score. The Inter striker was looking lively in the opening ten minutes, making another run, only for a foul to be given against him, when it could have gone the other way leaving the Milan defender in trouble. Perisic was getting a chance to run down the right, looking to cut-in when he could, and seemingly had a good link with Santon, demonstrating some nice interplay in that channel.

Kucka impressive and aggressive

A key performer for Milan in the early stages (and throughout the match) was Kucka. He’d been brought back in by Mihajlovic, presumably to strengthen the midfield – which was clearly the less physical of the two teams. However, alongside Montolivo, they were very good at making tackles and breaking up Inter attacks. Kucka showed his worth in multiple areas in the first 20 minutes alone. We saw him tracking down the ball in the right-back area, running through the middle to the box in possession only to be brought down by a foul that wasn’t given (and then charging back to regain the ball), ‘roughing up’ Brozovic, and getting forward to cross into dangerous areas. The versatility and work-rate that Kucka brings to Milan is massively important in big games like this. Similarly, Montolivo has the most interceptions in Serie A this season, and although they miss a more creative aspect from central positions, the Rossoneri captain has been very influential. They seem to have a good dynamic in midfield, and although maybe not the classic central partnership, they appear to work very well at times. The Milan duo clearly won the midfield battle over Medel and Brozovic.

Juventus 1-0 Roma : Juve March On

Juventus came into the match looking for their 11th consecutive Serie A win, and wanting to put pressure on Napoli at the top of the table. They had their back-line trio of Chiellini, Barzagli and Bonucci back together, in a familiar 3-5-2. Evra came back in on the left, Pogba into midfield and Mandzukic started alongside Dybala up top. Spalletti, aiming to turn his side’s fortunes around and keep pace with the top three, went with a similar set-up although having Nainggolan almost behind the strikers. This differed from their last outing, against Verona, as Castan and Torosidis made way for Rudiger and Vainqueur. De Rossi slipped back into the back three. Salah played as a forward, along with Dzeko.

Juventus vs Roma - Football tactics and formations

Juve first-half domination

Although a slightly cagey opening, we got a general feel for the approach that both sides were taking. Juve, as they often do, pressed from the front with the benefit of having the two strikers that can squeeze the opposition into playing the ball out quickly from the back. Roma were more inclined to sit back and let their opponents have the ball, potentially trying to catch them on the break when possible. This early possession and movement up the pitch appeared to give Juve the upper hand and set the tone for the half. Something we saw in the first ten minutes or so was Pogba getting down the left, troubling Roma, and getting crosses in. He was being afforded a concerning amount of space around this area of the pitch. I’m not sure that this was a deliberate ploy to attack Florenzi, who isn’t the best full-back when it comes to defensive positioning or tackling, but it looked like a possible avenue for attack. However, as the game went on, it was predominantly Evra who was the one to move into this area.

De Rossi didn’t do himself any favours by getting booked early after an off-the-ball incident with Mandzukic. He was possibly lucky to stay on the pitch after replays showed a punching motion into the striker’s back and he appears to stand on him as well. Not too long after, Rudiger was also booked after an unnecessary challenge (and could have been carded just before), leaving Roma’s defence on a relatively thin line after only 15 minutes. Dybala was getting into pockets of space between the lines, which he usually does, and was already starting to have an influence (we’ll cover Dybala’s role later). Despite already being pretty deep, Roma probably could have benefited by having someone closer to Dybala to nullify his impact – Vainqueur being the most likely candidate. Nainggolan was dropping deep to help out Roma’s defensive efforts, and with him being there it gave the possibility of him starting counter-attacks, which he has tried to do from a naturally deeper position – like against Milan. However, Juve never really allowed this, and the Belgian’s influence was very limited. Demonstrated on 29 minutes, he had the chance to instigate a counter-attack but lost the ball carelessly. Nainggolan was also well marshalled in the attacking half, making only 9 passes in the attacking third all game. Chiellini proved this on 27 minutes by rushing out of his defensive line to meet the Roma midfielder on the ball, giving away a foul in the process.

Napoli 3-1 Sassuolo : Higuain fires Napoli forward

Coming into this match, both sides would have been very happy with their start to the season. Napoli remained top after Inter’s draw in Bergamo, and Sassuolo had crept up to sixth – ahead of Empoli, Milan and Lazio. The two teams met on the opening day of the season, where Sarri lost (his first game in charge) 2-1 due to a late Sansone header. Sassuolo were fielding a somewhat different attack this time around, albeit a familiar 4-3-3/4-1-4-1, starting with Falcinelli, Politano and Sansone (Berardi missing through suspension). Napoli brought back Ghoulam at left-back and Insigne came in for Mertens. Maybe somewhat surprisingly, Chiriches started ahead of Koulibaly in the heart of defence.

Napoli vs Sassuolo - Football tactics and formations

Left wingers – Sansone vs Insigne

The main area of threat for both teams during the majority of the match was the left flank. The two wingers on this side were probably the two best players for each team. Immediately we saw the threat of the Sassuolo’s Sansone, who capitalised on Hysaj’s mistake to win a penalty in the second minute of the game. It was really a series of three errors from Napoli’s right back, each one leading to an increase in significance of the next, which offered Sassuolo a route to goal. First of all, Hysaj hit a lazy pass/clearance straight to an opponent about 20 yards away. Then the ball was played back over his head, as he had perhaps come too far infield out of position to leave the opposition winger slightly open. Hysaj managed to get something on the ball, but as he went to clear it, he missed his kick and allowed Sansone to gather and run into the box. Albiol then puts in a clumsy ‘tackle’, bringing down Sansone as he shifts the ball to the right, and concedes the penalty. It was all a bit unnecessary, as Albiol gets square on to the attacker and sticks a leg out, even as Allan is coming in to alleviate any danger – Sansone still would have had a lot to do to score. Regardless, the penalty was dispatched by Falcinelli in the absence of Berardi, and the visitors took the early lead.

Straight away after this, Duncan played a long pass through down the left, and Sansone had another chance to run forward with the ball. This time Allan got back to interfere earlier, and although the Sassuolo winger shrugged him off once, the combination of Allan and Albiol managed to contain Sansone at the byline and his subsequent cross was cleared for a corner. At first, its easy to assume that Hysaj is the one being helped out by Allan again, but the Napoli right back is actually caught miles up the pitch, and its Albiol that comes across to cover, with Chiriches the one making the eventual clearance in the middle.

From this point, it was Insigne who had the majority of the chances on the left, using his pace and control to try to open up the opposition defence. When he picks up the ball out wide, he has a few options. Napoli use the ball over the top from the inside-left position to their advantage a lot, usually with Callejon, Higuain or Hamsik running ahead. That’s one option – to pick out a run of an attacker and try and play a ball over the top. Napoli are also great on the counter, and they can build the attack by playing short passes until they are able to slip Higuain through – this is another option for Insigne – to lay the ball off and keep possession going forward for his team. Alternatively, he can run at the defence, cutting inside or out, to try and get into the penalty area himself. This is what makes it really hard for teams to defend against Napoli, particularly on the counter-attack, because they get their attacking players moving around the ball really quickly and effectively. The man in possession, in this case Insigne, has plenty of options as he drives towards goal. His link-up play, particularly with Higuain and Hamsik, has been extremely effective and was a notable difference between the two teams. Their performance today was made even more impressive by the fact that one of the key features in Sassuolo’s game is their ability to get men back behind the ball and make recovery runs. Although reasonably good at counter-attacking themselves, Sassuolo don’t have the same level of link up play. Sansone didn’t have the fluid movement around him that could either drag defenders around or provide options for quick passes to cut through the defence.

Roma 1-1 AC Milan : Pressure mounts

With both managers under pressure, this game at the Olimpico was billed as one that could cost either man their job. Roma have undoubtedly been on a bad run, which has seen them pick up only one win in their last 9 matches, leaving Garcia on thin ice and in poor standing with the fans. Mihajlovic has also endured some bad results recently, admittedly not to the same degree as Roma, but draws with Carpi and Verona as well as a loss in the week to Bologna have seen Milan struggle to stay in the race for Europe. The home side were without Dzeko, serving a suspension, so Umar Sadiq started up front, with Falque and Gervinho attacking on the wings in a 4-3-3 set up. Milan continued with a 4-4-2, although with Kucka in for Montolivo in central midfield and Adriano alongside Bacca up front.

Roma vs AC Milan - Football tactics and formations

Early Roma goal dictates play

From the whistle, Rudi Garcia’s side were looking like they wanted to control the game and get off to a quick start. Milan appeared slightly nervy and on the back foot, with the main culprit being Romagnoli – he looked immediately under pressure and made mistakes early on. Sadiq had a chance in the opening seconds, as the Milan defender allowed the ball to bounce without any real assertiveness and Sadiq got a shot away in the box that lead to a good save. After the early warning signs, soon came the first goal. It arrived from a familiar source, a Pjanic free-kick, which was won through a shirt-pull by Romagnoli as the ball came towards Sadiq. The free-kick was flighted into the box, dipping at the back post area, where Rudiger was running in to volley goalwards with ease. The Milan defensive line was poor – Abate and Zapata served only to play the Roma players onside as they retreated back into the box too early to play offside, and too late to affect the runners behind them – one of which was the subsequently unmarked Rudiger.

Roma still had chances after the goal, they continued to worry Milan’s defence. Sadiq created another opportunity as the ball was thrown into him inside the box, he was allowed to turn sharply and lay it off to Pjanic who just missed the target. Again though, it was poor defending by Milan in the area, with Romagnoli kind of waving a foot out and Bertolacci perhaps scared to make a tackle in the box. We did have glimpses of Milan going forward, with Abate getting high up on the right wing for the first time, failing to pick anyone out with a cross, and a couple of tame shots from distance. They enjoyed periods with the ball and made their way into Roma’s territory, but it was the home side that continued to look the more incisive at times, and Sadiq again appeared to have the beating of Romagnoli, as he ran onto a ball over the top but was flagged offside. This, frustratingly, was a feature of Roma’s play throughout the match – offsides from long balls as the attacker (usually Sadiq) was slow in jogging back into position. There were a few underlying factors that contributed to this, aside from lazy movement from attackers. In particular, Milan’s high defensive line pushing up, and some pressing high up the pitch (from both teams) which forced the ball long on occasions. The difference was that Milan tried to avoid playing it long, they didn’t really need to, and Roma didn’t mind going long because they had pace to worry Milan’s high line in behind. Also, Szczesny went long with his kicks quite a lot (although notably sloppy in doing so).

Infographic : Hitman Higuain in 2015



Juventus 3-1 Fiorentina : Juve battle to 3 points

Juventus went into the game looking to continue the run of form they were enjoying, against their rivals Fiorentina, who themselves had shown us some of the best football in Serie A this season. The home side lined-up with a familiar three at the back, with Evra and Cuadrado deployed as wing-backs. Khedira came into midfield alongside Marchisio and Pogba, with Dybala and Mandzukic up top. Fiorentina had a similar looking back three, with Bernardeschi and Alonso occupying the wings. They effectively had an extra man in midfield with Vecino and Badelj holding in the centre, but then Valero and Ilicic also deployed around that area, with more license to go forward to link with Kalinic.

Juventus vs Fiorentina - Football tactics and formations

The game started at an incredible tempo, pushed by Juventus’ obvious desire to hunt down the ball in Fiorentina’s third. We knew that Sousa’s team would try and keep the ball in their half and attempt to dominate possession, but Allegri’s trick was clearly to disrupt this from the start and put immense pressure on the opponent’s defence and midfield on the ball. This instantly left gaps in midfield and into Juve’s half where they looked to push up, as they almost dared Fiorentina to try to play through them and take advantage. It backfired when the away side won a penalty just minutes into the game, as Bernardeschi charged into the penalty area and went down after claiming contact from Chiellini. Replays suggested light contact, if any, and it appeared that the Viola winger had gone down dramatically to steal his team an advantage early on. Either way, the penalty was converted well by Ilicic – hard to the keeper’s left.

The electrifying intensity to the game continued, mostly through Juve’s pressure and willingness to challenge their opponent’s philosophy and intent to keep the ball in their half to control the tempo. Allegri was effectively challenging Fiorentina to play their usual game, and to their credit the away side stuck to their guns. They backed their technical ability in players like Vecino, Badelj and Valero to play the ball around, use width and direct play at their own volition. An early feature of Juve’s play was Pogba’s willingness to go forward and drift out to the left, combining with Evra, which in turn lead to the equaliser after just another couple of minutes. Pogba released Evra from a nice back flick and Bernardeschi lazily letting him get towards the byline and cross the ball unopposed. Cuadrado met the cross with his head and (possibly unintentionally) looped it back over Tatarusanu into the far corner of the goal. You could see Sousa shaking his head on the touchline as the goal went in, most likely partially because of the ease that Evra could get the cross in and partially because of how easily Cuadrado has walked in at the back of the box to header at goal unopposed. It was a bit of a nothing goal to concede after taking the lead so early.

Both teams were still at high tempo and urgency somewhat after the second goal, with Juventus still pressing high-up the pitch, particularly Mandzukic who charged at the goalkeeper and defenders on multiple occasions. Pogba continued to go forward and looked to act as a number 10 at times, linking the play and also sticking to his midfield duties. Tomovic was forced to play it long a couple of times, where his team would then lose possession, albeit winning it back in midfield. Borja Valero was covering ground through the middle, running back to help offer himself as an extra body to keep possession, and then trying to move the play up the pitch when necessary. He, along with Ilicic, became Viola’s main men on the counter, as those two were generally the ones that the ball went through on its route to goal through the centre of the pitch – and they did a good job in the first half of keeping this fluidity and transition in attacks. Juve could identify the danger of their opponents on the ball, and Chiellini wasn’t averse to literally running out of his defensive line to engage the ball when Ilicic gathered it (pic below). He probably didn’t do this just because he was getting bored standing next to Bonucci. Bernardeschi saw Chiellini become fixed on Ilicic and looked to run into his space, but Ilicic gave the ball back to Tomovic in favour of keeping possession instead of facing up Chiellini.

AC Milan 4-1 Sampdoria : Mihajlovic extinguishes Samp flame

Mihajlovic would have been eagerly anticipating a trip from his former team, to face a Sampdoria side who have only taken 2 points away from home this season. Club favourite Vincenzo Montella appears to have a job on his hands to turn around their poor form, after taking over from Zenga a couple of weeks ago, with Samp managing only 1 win since the start of October. He fielded two strikers in Muriel and Eder, with what was effectively a diamond in midfield. Milan shaped up in more of a 4-4-3 formation, with Niang and Bacca furthest forward – supported by Bonaventura who roamed about and Cerci who stuck to the right, mostly. Bertolacci was missing, and Montolivo was left to hold down central midfield with Kucka.

Milan vs Sampdoria - Football tactics and formations

The match started with an early mistake from the home team’s young goalkeeper, taking a bad touch and playing the ball out to Soriano, but managing to get back in time to make the save. Eder was caught on the leg in the process of Donarumma’s hurried clearance, and had to leave the field temporarily. Barreto appeared to try to cover more space down the left, with the cover of Ivan and Fernando possibly allowing him to do this. However, throughout the game, the presence of effectively four Sampdoria midfielders in central roles didn’t really help them control that area of the pitch. Kucka and Montolivo did a much better job in that respect. The width of Cerci helped the home side as well, which was something that Montella seemed to leave pretty much solely to the full-backs to try and offer. Barreto and Ivan wandered into wide areas intermittently, but this was never of any great benefit or purpose to attack.

Niang drifted out to the right, and seemed to ignore Cerci on one occasion early on, deciding to whip in a low cross which went out for a goal kick. After that he was sensible enough to give Cerci some more opportunity to try and create chances from the right wing – which he certainly did. Despite not being the most consistent of performers, one thing that Cerci can do is deliver a fantastic cross – which he did on several occasions. Although these were interspersed with a couple of wild shots and bad decisions, he really did have the beating of Mesbah on that side of the pitch, and looked a likely source for the opening goal. Antonelli was getting forward from full-back on the other wing, as he does, and it was a run and cut-back to Bacca which lead to a good shot and save from Viviano. The Samp keeper pushed it back out to Cerci who pounced and had the ball in the net, only for it to be correctly ruled offside. After the last game against Juve, where Bacca looked quiet and unable to really get into the game, it was positive for Rossoneri fans to see the Colombian looking lively.

Milan appeared the much more comfortable side in the opening half hour, and space began to open at times in midfield. Barreto didn’t really stick to his position, which didn’t help this, and Kucka was the most effective player at covering space and disrupting play for the opposition. Montolivo had an effective game as well, making interceptions and trying to dictate the tempo. Sampdoria had a chance at an opening with Mesbah getting forward well on the left, receiving a crossfield pass as he came into the box unguarded, but was eventually tackled. As is quite often the case in Serie A, when Antonelli gets forward on the left, he does it much more effectively than the other team – he runs with the ball and looks dangerous going forward almost catching the defenders by surprise. Mesbah likes to get forward, but only once on this occasion did he get space to run in to, and a chance to have an impact in a forward area. As the half played out, Montella’s side were on the back foot, with Milan’s front men getting more into the game. Cerci had another cross which flashed through the 6-yard box as Bonaventura was blocked off by Silvestri as he came in.

Juventus 1-0 AC Milan : Juve surpass Milan

Always an exciting prospect, the first Juve – Milan encounter of the season could have culminated in either the away side moving five points ahead, or Alegri’s Bianconeri leapfrogging Milan in the Serie A standings. Juve started with a 4-3-1-2, or effectively at times a diamond formation, with Lichtsteiner and Evra offering the width as Pogba, Sturaro and Marchisio played central. Hernanes was deployed more in a number ten role behind the strikers Dybala and Mandzukic. The away side fielded a familiar 4-3-3, Alex at centre-back and Abate on the right, Bonaventura came back in for Poli and the front three remained as Cerci, Bacca and Niang.juvemilanformations

Juventus pressed the opposition defence at the start, trying to force them to hurry the play and disrupt any rhythm they sought early. Milan have been constantly looking to play the ball short from the goalkeeper this season, often out to the full-backs – even as wide as square if necessary, but Juve’s two up front made this too difficult as it offered very little route out from the back along the ground. Along with this pressing, it may have been likely to see Juve try and expose Alex’s lack of pace and make runs in behind early on. However, this never really happened, and Milan looked pretty solid throughout the first half defensively, keeping their shape well and not getting too exposed by Juve’s two strikers. Montolivo appeared to try to track Hernanes and/or Marchisio when they came through central areas, but it was Kucka who did a lot of the early tackling and ball retrieval from midfield. The Slovak had an interesting game, on the one hand he made by far the most tackles, yet he also lost possession of the ball more than any other player on the pitch.

There was a reasonable amount of space in midfield early on, and the tempo of the game was pretty quick at times. Cerci was looking to get down the right wing, as he always does, but his final ball was again somewhat questionable. He did well to get past Marchisio on one occasion to break forward, and again after Kucka won the ball back, but even after getting to the byline failed to deliver a meaningful cross. Chiellini often tries to cut the ball out, or win the first ball played into the opposition attacker, and his role this evening involved coming across to cover the area on the left that Cerci was trying to run into. Evra went off injured later in the half and Alex Sandro, who got forward a lot (especially when Juve went to a 3-5-2 after the break), came on. Sandro generally struggled with Cerci during the game, and his impact definitely came further up the pitch. On the other side, it became slightly open at times. Lichtsteiner was marauding forward, as he does, and Barzagli offered some cover around that area, but Bonaventura and Niang had opportunities to exploit the left-hand side, and Antonelli would have liked to have had a greater impact overlapping.

Juve began to dominate possession, and looked to exert their control over the game as far up the pitch as they could. Milan, on one occasion showed decent interplay in the final third, but never really troubled the home side’s shape. At the other end, Dybala looked lively and quite often came deeper in search of the ball, and had good movement in and out of possession. Mandzukic didn’t have a great impact and was relatively quiet, having significantly less touches than Dybala and not getting a chance to get threaten inside Milan’s penalty area anywhere near as much as he’d have liked. Mandzukic did on occasion get time to accept the ball, as the away side didn’t always get tight to him and appeared to allow him some space to operate. That being said, the Croatian became slightly frustrated. Under Conte, one of Juve’s main strengths was their link-up of the strikers as they used the two-striker approach extremely effectively. They were able to manage transitions from midfield to attack and demonstrate movement between the lines that unsettled and broke through opposition defences. It’s obvious that they are still trying to fill the void left from Tevez’s departure, whose movement and purpose with the ball was so key up front. Llorente, although never setting the world alight, built up a partnership with Tevez where they appeared to work really well together as a duo.

Sampdoria 0-2 Fiorentina : Viola dominate possession

Many saw this trip to the Marassi as a big test for Sousa’s team, with Sampdoria unbeaten at home so far this season. They came into the game off the back of a European tie three days prior, a trip to Poznan, albeit making a fair few changes. Bernardeschi occupied the right wing-back and Pasqual the left, seeing Roncaglia slot back into defence. Badelj came in for Suarez in the middle, and Valero moved back into the attacking midfield role, with Kalinic replacing Rossi up top. Samp took up a familiar 4-3-3, with their main danger being the pace and movement of Eder and Muriel on the break.

The match picked up quickly, with a fast-paced start, as the away side looked to use their wing-backs as an advantage, trying to provide options out wide going forward. Pasqual, in particular, got forward early on and Samp appeared to offer him too much space. Borja Valero was intent on closing down the opposition players on the ball in their own half in his section, on the left, and the home side weren’t generally allowed the space to build through midfield. However, the referee set a precedent of booking Badelj early on for tugging back Eder who was breaking away, followed by the same reprimand for Vecino shortly after. This could have been some concern for Viola, with both their central midfielders on bookings and unable to commit to risky tackles for the rest of the game. However, this never really materialised as an issue because of how Fiorentina put the emphasis of the game firmly upon their own possession of the ball, and never got in a position where they had to chase around in those areas.

The breakthrough came when Samp’s young full-back Pereira, playing for the first time on the left, was caught out of position and lost his man after Roncaglia played a long ball over the top. Bernardeschi cut in and flicked the ball up, prompting Zukanovic to inexplicably wave his arm at it and give away a penalty. Ilicic scored the resulting spot-kick, low and hard to Viviano’s left. This only served to inspire confidence into the away side, as they got men forward on the attack, and dominated possession. Bernardeschi looked dangerous coming forward down the right, on one occasion running with the ball and shooting just wide. Samp did manage to use their outlet of Muriel, as he burst away down the left, with Gonzalo booked for pulling him back at the byline, but the home side couldn’t utilise the counter at all well, and showed no great threat or intent at moving men into Fiorentina’s half. When they did pick up the ball in their own half, they were quick to pass it to an opposition player and lose any opportunity they had to catch Viola out of position.

Defensively Sampdoria seemed to struggle as well. Kalinic had a great chance to score, after a fantastic dink through from Badelj (shown in the image at the bottom, demonstrating the movement of the front two), but putting it wide of the post. The defensive line was poor – with one man out of position (yellow circled) and playing Kalinic onside. Sousa’s men continued to press high up the pitch if the opposition took too long on the ball in defence, disrupting the rhythm of the Blucerchiati, and pinning their play back. All the while, Eder and Muriel were becoming completely isolated from the play and a void would appear between them and the midfield whenever they had the ball. If anything, Viola were the more proficient on the counter, with Ilicic breaking this time, although the final pass being offside. Samp did have a brief spell where they tried to rally before half-time, as the noise from the crowd intensified. Muriel still looked lively, despite a lack of service, and he got onto the end of a long ball, after Astori failed to deal with it, but the resulting opportunity was blazed over by Baretto with a clear chance failing to materialise. All the same, it was some hope for the home side, and Fernando was trying his best to gee up the supporters.

Inter 1-0 Roma : A familiar result to return to the top

Inter started the game in familiar shape, but with Icardi missing out and Jovetic playing in the centre of attack. Perhaps controversially, D’Ambrosio started at right back for the first time this season, and Nagatomo on the other side, possibly to combat the pace of the Roma attack. Both teams looked relatively similar in shape, as you would have expected, with a 4-3-3 line-up. Garcia has somewhat transformed his side into a more counter-attacking team in recent weeks, which has worked with the pace of Gervinho and Salah, but relies less on the technical guile of players like Pjanic.


The game started at a pretty fast pace, more so than Inter’s last game against Bologna, and Gervinho had some joy in getting down the right along the byline, but failing with the delivery. Nainggolan looked to be the one dictating Roma’s play in the middle of the field, coming deeper to receive the ball at times, and playing passes around. From the start, it was noticeable that Inter were more comfortable dropping off Roma when the away side had possession in their own half. The Roma defenders could bring the ball nearly out to the halfway line unchallenged, as Mancini’s men retreated with the midfield squeezing back onto the defence to form two solid lines.

When Inter had possession, Nagatomo was predictably high up the pitch, often in Roma’s half and at times Maicon was caught out and put too much responsibility on Salah to drop back. There was an interesting battle between Digne and D’Ambrosio on the other side, with the Roma left back getting forward and trying to engineer a position to cross from. When he did manage to get a ball in for the first time, it was a decent delivery, prompting a save from a Dzeko header. Along with Maicon overlapping on the opposite flank, it looked like a good route for Roma to take and expose the Inter defence against Dzeko aerially in the box.

Inter weren’t without good movement going forward, with Ljajic and Brozovic linking up to create a chance from a cross into the box, but without the final touch. The players going forward for the Nerazzurri, tending to be the front three plus Brozovic, were roaming around a fair bit – switching sides and cutting in from the flanks. This occasionally gave them good options on the counter-attack, and looked to expose Roma’s high defensive line. With the high, flat line that Garcia’s side had adopted, it appeared as though Inter could slip through with some quick short passes and clever movement – something that Jovetic usually offers – but nothing quite materialised. It may well have been useful to have Icardi in there to play off Jovetic and try and manipulate space, which he can do well at times. Palacio came on late in the second half and, although in different circumstances, demonstrated how to play off the shoulder of the defender and work space well.

Roma did look to Salah to run with the ball, like he has done effectively so far this season, but he couldn’t really penetrate the Inter defence and Nagatomo had a very good game, getting back at him on a few occasions to stop any meaningful service from the Roma wide man. Instead it was Maicon, who’s movement coming in front the right, could have opened up a pathway to goal. As he showed a couple of times, he can get forward into good areas un-tracked, and he found himself with a free shot in the area towards the end of the first half, which was saved and pushed out to Dzeko who probably should have reacted quicker on the rebound. Dzeko looked slightly out of sorts all game, but appeared more dangerous in the air, his touch letting him down a few times. Inter were pretty poor at defending aerial balls into the box, not just against the Bosnian striker, but also from Rudiger and Manolas on separate occasions. They brought on Ranocchia towards the end, but this didn’t really seem to alleviate the problem.