Inter Milan coach Leonardo believes tomorrow's match against Roma at the San Siro will prove an important benchmark in seeing just how far the team have come under his stewardship. Inter lost 1-0 in Rome earlier in the season when Roma were struggling but both sides have picked up since then and are closing in on leaders AC Milan.
Leonardo says this match will go a long way towards demonstrating which side is best equipped to push Milan all the way, without being a winner-takes-all clash. "The match between Inter and Roma has become a tradition with an important recent past," said the Brazilian. "It will be a great match, as intense as ever. It's a game that can give an important indication, even if it won't be decisive in terms of the standings."
Leonardo has guided Inter to eight wins in nine matches in all competitions since taking over from Rafael Benitez at the end of December with the team languishing in seventh in Serie A. They now sit third. "I'm very happy with this run of positive results that we've had up until now because this really is a tough championship," he said. "We knew this team could do well and they have done but I think they can do even better."
The major difference compared to Benitez's reign is that Inter are currently scoring at a prolific rate - 19 in seven league games under the Brazilian. Leonardo has mostly been playing Diego Milito and Samuel Eto'o as a conventional strike pair but he insists the goals are not just due to the forwards.
"You all know that I really like forwards, but it's not the number of forwards that makes a team attacking as much as it is the propensity of the midfielders to join them. Against Bari (where Inter won 3-0 on Thursday) that's what was lacking, the support from the midfielders."
Roma coach Claudio Ranieri admitted his opposite number has an embarrassment of attacking riches. "Inter have options that can produce goals like (Giampaolo) Pazzini and (Houssine) Kharja. They've strengthened, so good for them," he said.
"And Inter have also changed philosophy from (former coach Jose) Mourinho to Benitez to Leonardo, but they're still very strong. We're fighting to win and to match them. I don't know if Inter will be better than before but for sure it's a different Inter to the one we know."