No Ronaldo for Inter

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The Independent Online
The Italian league leaders, Internazionale, have a chance to show that they are not over- reliant on their brilliant striker Ronaldo when they take on the in-form AS Roma at the San Siro today.

The Brazilian is at present on international duty in the Confederations' Cup in Saudi Arabia and will be absent from Serie A for the first time this season. Internazionale's coach, Gigi Simoni, has spent much of the last week playing down the likely impact of his absence, insisting that he is not concerned.

"We've known from the beginning of the season that Ronaldo would be required at some stage by Brazil and we've planned for that," he said. "Fortunately, Inter have a very strong squad."

Inter's experienced goalkeeper, Gianluca Pagliuca, struck a similar note, saying: "Sure, results so far would suggest that with Ronaldo in the side, Inter are a winning formation. But let's not get into a panic, Inter have got other very good strikers."

Marco Branca will probably replace Ronaldo alongside France's Youri Djorkaeff. Other options such as the Uruguayan Alvaro Recoba, the Chilean Ivan Zamorano and Maurizio Ganz are ruled out for a variety of reasons. Recoba is also at the Confederations' Cup, Zamorano is still recovering from injury and Ganz is involved in a possible transfer deal with Inter's local rivals Milan.

Inter will also be without the injured Dutch midfielder Aron Winter, but have a strong centre-field line-up in the Argentines Javier Zanetti and Diego Simeone along with the Brazilian Ze Elias and the ex-Roma player Francesco Moriero.

Despite the absence of Ronaldo and others, Internazionale come into the game in a buoyant mood following an impressive Uefa Cup quarter-final qualification with a 3-0 midweek win against the French side Strasbourg. Roma are also confident after one of their best league starts in the last decade. Easy 3-0 winners against Atalanta last Sunday, Roma are at present joint third with on 22 points, five points behind Inter.

They too will be without key players in Brazilian defenders Aldair and Cafu as well as the midfielder Luigi Di Biagio. The Brazilians are in Saudi Arabia while Di Biagio is suspended.

Either the Spanish midfielder Ivan Helguera or Damiano Tomassi replaces Di Biagio with Matteo Pivotto and Filippo Dal Moro stepping into defence.

Up front, Roma will rely on the attacking skills of the Argentine Abel Balbo, Brazilian Paulo Sergio and Francesco Totti. Even without Ronaldo, goals should not be a problem today.