Daniele De Rossi faces the first true test of his new Roma regime on Saturday as rampant Inter Milan come to town looking to defend their four-point Serie A lead.
Former Italy midfielder and Roma icon De Rossi has had a perfect start since taking charge of his boyhood team last month.
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Three wins from three have calmed some of the fan anger at Jose Mourinho being sacked and have put Roma firmly back in the mix for Champions League football.
Roma are one point from Italy’s top four, although they have played a game more than fourth-placed Atalanta who are at Genoa on Sunday.
However those three wins have come against Verona, Salernitana and Cagliari, three teams battling relegation, and the first two were far from convincing.
Saturday’s test is of a different order of magnitude as Italy’s best team travel to Rome on a run of six straight wins in all competitions and a 20th Serie A title firmly in their sight.
However De Rossi, unlike his predecessor, is positive about the qualities his team has and is convinced they can rescue what has been a largely disappointing season.
“To get out of a negative period you have to do it together, as a team,” De Rossi said after Monday’s 4-0 thumping of Cagliari.
“This is a very good team, I keep trying to convince them of this fact.”
Saturday’s match in Rome is also an acid test for De Rossi’s more expansive style of football ahead of next week’s trip to old foes Feyenoord in the Europa League play-off round.
Under Mourinho Roma beat Feyenoord to win the inaugural Europa Conference League and also saw off the Dutch champions in last season’s run to the Europa League final.
De Rossi will face an almost full-strength Inter side without suspended coach Simone Inzaghi, with injured substitutes Juan Cuadrado and Davide Frattesi unavailable but the first XI all ready for the trip south.
Inter lead second-placed Juve by four after beating their closest Scudetto rivals last weekend and also have a game in hand, a tricky one against in-form Atalanta at the end of the month.
But Juve host struggling Udinese on Monday, meaning the gap could easily be cut this weekend should De Rossi’s Roma turn out to be the real deal.
AC Milan are also in a position to take advantage should Inter slip up in the Italian capital, as they host Napoli on Sunday night.
Milan have won six times in their unbeaten league run of eight matches, an upturn in form that even has Inzaghi keeping an eye on his local rivals.
Player to watch: Romelu Lukaku
Roma’s Lukaku had a miserable time playing his first match against Inter, thousands of ear-piercing whistles greeting his every touch of the ball at the San Siro.
Now the Belgium striker has a chance for revenge against Inter, where he left fans, teammates and club hierarchy befuddled and enraged at how he left after pained attempts to re-sign him permanently from Chelsea.
He also needs to get back in De Rossi’s good books after his row with Cagliari defender Yerry Mina led to his coach calling his actions “truly stupid”.
4 – Inter’s lead at the top of Serie A.
3 – Three straight wins for Roma under De Rossi.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Salernitana v Empoli (1945)
Cagliari v Lazio (1400), Roma v Inter (1700), Sassuolo v Torino (1945)
Fiorentina v Frosinone (1130), Monza v Verona, Bologna v Lecce (1400), Genoa v Atalanta (1700), AC Milan v Napoli (1945)
Juventus v Udinese (1945)