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They've battled 23 times in little over five years, but none of their previous meetings have meant quite so much to the clubs' coaches as tonight's fixture at San Siro will

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By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor

The countless clashes in Coppa Italia finals, the league title head-to-heads in 2008 and 2010, the almost yearly Supercoppa bouts, the regular epic Serie A fixtures … we have grown used to Inter and Roma duking it out between themselves for most of the top prizes in Italian football over the last five years. But when the two sides meet this evening at San Siro, it is a very different battle everybody will be talking about, as the two fledgling coaches look to beat away questions over their long-term futures in their new roles.

The parallels are somewhat uncanny. Though Inter have made the most headlines given their recent five successive titles, Roma are not far behind them in the fallen giants category, and they have had a similarly testing time under Luis Enrique to the Nerazzurri’s struggles with Gian Piero Gasperini at the helm.

HEAD-TO-HEADS SINCE SUMMER '06
Coppa final/1
Coppa final/2
Supercoppa
Serie A
Serie A
Coppa final/1
Coppa final/2
Supercoppa
Serie A
Serie A
Coppa final
Supercoppa
Serie A
Coppa QF
Serie A
Serie A
Serie A
Coppa final
Supercoppa
Serie A
Serie A
Coppa SF/1
Coppa SF/2
May 06
May 06
Aug 06
Sep 06
Apr 07
May 07
May 07
Aug 07
Sep 07
Feb 08
May 08
Aug 08
Oct 08
Jan 09
Mar 09
Nov 09
Mar 10
May 10
Aug 10
Sep 10
Feb 11
Apr 11
May 11
ROM 1-1 INT
INT 3-1 ROM
INT 4-3 ROM
ROM 0-1 INT
INT 1-3 ROM
ROM 6-2 INT
INT 2-1 ROM
INT 0-1 ROM
ROM 1-4 INT
INT 1-1 ROM
ROM 2-1 INT
INT 2-2 ROM
ROM 0-4 INT
INT 2-1 ROM
INT 3-3 ROM
INT 1-1 ROM
ROM 2-1 INT
ROM 0-1 INT
INT 3-1 ROM
ROM 1-0 INT
INT 5-3 ROM
ROM 0-1 INT
INT 1-1 ROM
INTER: 12 DRAW: 5 ROMA: 6
Both clubs had an underwhelming pre-season most notable for a convincing 3-0 defeat. Inter went down to Manchester City in the Dublin Cup with little more than a whimper, while Roma were clearly second best to Valencia before going down by the same score.

Results wise, the comparisons have continued into the regular season. Inter’s defeats in the Supercoppa Italiana, Champions League, and their opening Serie A fixture at Palermo have left the whole of Milan speculating about Gasperini’s future. Over in Roma, defeat to Slovan Bratislava over two legs in the Europa League was followed by a 2-1 home loss to Cagliari last weekend, leaving Luis Enrique on the back foot already.

But it doesn’t end only with the statistics, as the two coaches have each spent much of the pre-season period introducing a new starting formation that hasn’t been entirely successful. Unhappy players have grabbed the headlines too, as Wesley Sneijder’s desire to go to Manchester United and Francesco Totti’s anger at his regular 90 minute appearances having been curtailed have left big question marks over the players and their respective bosses. Now comes the crunch as the two come head-to-head for the first time in their coaching careers.

For all the similarities, there are also some differences. Gasperini has been thrust into the role of firefighter from day one, with Massimo Moratti’s desire to meet the new restraints enforced by Uefa’s Financial Fair Play movement resulting in the exit of top scorer Samuel Eto’o and the failure to compete for any of the bigger names available on the transfer market over the summer.

In stark contrast, Luis Enrique is trying to knit together a squad containing countless high profile new signings. The likes of Pablo Osvaldo, Bojan Krkic, Maarten Stekelenburg, Erik Lamela, Jose Angel and Miralem Pjanic have arrived at Trigoria to give the Spaniard the luxury of great choice when it comes to his favoured starting XI. Add to that the new regime in the boardroom under the watchful eye of Thomas DiBenedetto, and you have a club who should need little tinkering before they begin to challenge once more.

But can the same be said of Inter? Undoubtedly a bigger club, and with arguably a more talented squad, the Nerazzurri should be up in the top two places come May, but with several of their better players having long since passed the age of 30, there appears a need for regeneration at Appiano Gentile similar to that which has taken place this summer in Rome.

For now it’s all a question of who can get their house in order first, with tonight’s clash representing a great chance to start the wheels in motion. However, only one team can win, and only one of the under-pressure coaches can breathe a sigh of relief come 11pm. But which one? For Gasperini and Luis Enrique, this game is bigger than any of the finals their clubs have contested in recent times, with defeat potentially plunging them into the depths of depression.

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