Milan (AFP) – Francesco Totti softened the blow of a potential first league defeat of the season as Roma welcome former coach Luciano Spalletti’s Inter Milan in the first big Serie A clash of the season Saturday.
“Whatever the result, it won’t cause major drama,” Totti told Italia 1 radio from Monaco where the recently-retired Roma legend participated in the Champions League draw.
“It’s two top sides who want to win the league title meeting each other early on. But it’s still too early to talk about title challenges.”
Given the roaring start enjoyed by Inter last week in Spalletti’s first game in charge, a convincing 3-0 win over Fiorentina that saw captain Mauro Icardi hit a brace, fans might beg to differ.
Inter and city rivals AC Milan have upped the stakes by investing heavily and so are determined to join Napoli and Roma in the pair’s dogged pursuit of six-time consecutive champions Juventus.
Roma finished just four points behind Juve last term, but are still looking to shake off the early-season cobwebs having relied on a cheeky free-kick winner from former Manchester City defender Aleksandar Kolarov in a 1-0 win at Atalanta last week.
Kolarov, who joined in the summer, will get to face former Premier League opponents Chelsea again after Roma were pitted with the English giants, Atletico Madrid and Qarabag in the Champions League draw.
“We know we didn’t play great (at Atalanta), but we left with all three points and at the moment that is the most important thing for us,” he told Sky Sport Italia.
“We want to face Inter as ready as possible. We know they have a strong squad and it’s not just one or two players, we have to give all of the players they put out on the pitch maximum attention.”
Juventus should be relieved that Giovanni Simeone — the son of Atletico Madrid coach Diego — won’t be lining up at Genoa’s shared Luigi Ferraris stadium when the sides meet.
Simeone hit a memorable brace in a 3-1 win over the Turin giants last November amid his maiden Serie A season, earning a summer move to Fiorentina in the process.
Juventus saw Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain all hit the net in a 3-1 win at home to Cagliari last week.
But avoiding a repeat of last season’s trip to Genoa will be key and Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri is expected to hand Brazilian winger Douglas Costa his full league debut following his recent loan signing from Bayern Munich.
Elsewhere, Croatia striker Nikola Kalinic is expected to start on the bench when AC Milan host Cagliari hoping to maintain their bright start after a 3-0 win over 10-man Crotone thanks to Franck Kessie’s first-half penalty and further goals from Patrick Cutrone and Spanish ace Suso.
Fiorentina coach Stefano Pioli, sacked by Inter three games before the end of last season, will try to make light of Kalinic’s absence when La Viola host in-form Sampdoria.
Napoli, who looked in prime condition while cruising to a 3-1 win at promoted Verona last week, host Atalanta in Naples.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Benevento v Bologna, Genoa v Juventus (both 1600), Roma v Inter (1845)
Torino v Sassulo (1600), Chievo v Lazio, Crotone v Verona, Fiorentina v Sampdoria, AC Milan v Cagliari, Napoli v Atalanta, Spal v Udinese (all 1845)
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