Scudetto rivals aim to calm premature title-talk
Fifteen games into the season, the Italian media brand Inter Milan as "unstoppable", while second placed Roma trail them by just five pointssports Updated: Dec 10, 2007 13:05 IST
It may be only 15 games into the 38-match Italian season but already fans and media here are branding Inter Milan as unstoppable.
The gap between the champions and second-placed Roma is only five points but already Inter have an air of invincibility about them.
Yet the coaches of the three main title rivals have been at pains to calm down the fear that the champions will romp away to another Serie A title.
Last season they finished more than 20 points clear of Roma in second while also setting a new record of 17 league wins in a row.
Inter further added to those fears of domination at the San Siro on Sunday by drubbing Torino 4-0 while Roma dropped two points in a 1-1 draw at Livorno.
Third-placed Juventus needed a Pavel Nedved stunner four minutes from full-time to beat Atalanta 1-0 at home to avoid falling further behind than the eight-point gap they already have to Inter.
Roma's goalscorer Daniele De Rossi spoke of his frustration at Inter's ability to churn out wins after his team's draw in Livorno but his coach Luciano Spalletti said people should stop getting carried away.
"I know my players, they will keep going until the final match. We're not frustrated," he insisted. "We're determined to stay the course."
It is fans and media that seem to have already hung the winners' medals around Inter's collective neck but nerazzurri coach Roberto Mancini is wary about complacency.
"We're not even halfway through the season and although it's better to have a five-point gap than a three-point one, every match we play is difficult and we have to stay focussed," he told Sky Sport.
"I think Roma are just as strong as Inter, Juve too, even if they have changed a lot, they are dangerous because they're not playing in the Champions League. We want to stay in front but the championship is a long race."
Juventus are a much changed outfit from the one that was dominating Serie A before their demotion to Serie B for match-fixing.
That saw a whole host of star players leave for pastures new but they have rebuilt quickly and have surprised many people by challenging for the title in their first year back in the top flight.
And coach Claudio Ranieri is confident that his side is capable of lasting the distance and being in the mix when the title is decided in May.
"We know that Inter and Roma are stronger (than us). We will try to keep up with them. Being at Juventus means we have to do that," he said.
Still, while Roma were held by Livorno and Juve scraped past Atalanta, Inter were trouncing Torino.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, already leading the way to be named Italian player of the season, converted a dubbious penalty seven minutes before the break and seven minutes after the restart, the game was over as a contest.
First Romanian defender Christian Chivu crossed for Argentine striker Julio Cruz to head home and then Chile midfielder Luis Jimenez hit a rasping drive into the top corner.
Colombia defender Ivan Cordoba bundled home a late fourth from close range. Roma took the lead in Livorno on just five minutes as De Rossi headed home Brazilian midfielder Rodrigo Taddei's corner.
But less than 60 seconds later former Spain forward Diego Tristan turned Brazil centre-back Juan inside out and fired home low into the far corner.
In Turin, Juventus toiled for 86 minutes before a stunning strike from Nedved sealed a vital three points.