Romans eye the end of Inter's empire

The Romans know a thing or two about the fall of an empire – and they also recognise that it does not collapse overnight.

Regal rule is chipped away over time and that is why AS Roma have not been making any great proclamations that they are serious title contenders in the second half of the season.

Inter may hold an eight-point lead at the top, but it's the Giallorossi who are showing the form of real champions.

The run now stands at 18 games undefeated in all competitions going all the way back to October 28 when they lost at Udinese – a team they dispatched with some ease in last night’s Italian Cup semi-final first leg.

NEWS, Thu Feb 4: Rampant Roma take upper hand

Claudius once saved the Eternal City from ruin but now it's Claudio who is keeping the flame burning – and it's burning ever more brightly with each passing week.

The reversal under Ranieri has certainly been impressive considering it's the same group of players who started the season with Luciano Spalletti in charge, which would suggest that they knew that their Mister had one foot out the door and were thus less inclined to do his bidding.

There has to be a pretender to Inter's crown out there and why not an uprising born out of the capital, where the steady climb from 19th to second has come despite the fact that Francesco Totti has not been fully fit?

Ranieri: Pioneer of the "knee shoes"

You just never know how events could pan out towards the end of March, when Roma are scheduled to meet Jose Mourinho’s men at the Stadio Olimpico.

Inter are at home on Sunday to Cagliari, whose coach Massimiliano Allegri knocked Mourinho’s nose out of joint earlier this week when he was awarded the Panchina d'Oro (Golden Bench) by his peers.

They then travel to Parma in midweek for their rearranged fixture before what will be a pivotal encounter down in Naples, where the home side haven't lost a night game in 41 outings.

After that it's Sampdoria and then the first tilt against Chelsea - and that could be make-or-break time for Roma.

If they can gain something this weekend at Fiorentina, who are still coming to terms with losing Adrian Mutu to a positive doping test, then there are two relatively benign home games against Palermo and Catania, with a Europa League tie at Panathinaikos sandwiched in between.

BLOG, Wed Feb 3: How Cassano almost replaced "Slim Shady" Mutu

It's the last weekend in February and the first weekend in March that things will get really tasty, with a trip to Napoli followed by AC Milan at home.

It may have all the makings of an unlikely comeback – Inter are the Empire now, with its endless resources and feeling of invincibility – but the canny Ranieri will have steeled his men to take advantage of any imperial wavering. More to read...

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