Roma and Austria Wien enter tomorrow’s Europa League fixture deadlocked for first in the group (on points, at least), with Roma holding the edge in goal differential. Where the last match was supposed to be a cakewalk for the Giallorossi, this one is anything but, quite simply because so much of the squad is currently having difficulty walking.
Roma’s injury list reads like a veritable red carpet list. Francesco Totti (gone), Kostas Manolas (gone), Alessandro Florenzi (gone), Thomas Vermaelen (perpetually gone), Mario Rui (gone, not sure he even signed a contract) and Emerson Palmieri (gone but most likely forgotten) all stand as testament to Roma’s outstanding training regimen.
In the face of such absence, Luciano Spalletti will be forced to do some tinkering, starting at the back. Without Manolas and potentially Federico Fazio, Spalletti admitted that the next man up will be Daniele De Rossi reprising his role as a centerback, which certainly has its positives and negatives. DDR instantly becomes Roma’s best ball playing defender, but it puts his own health and stamina in jeopardy, and in case you hadn’t heard, Roma’s midfield isn’t exactly a well spring of quality beyond the top three.
As far as how these walking wounded will influence the game plan, Spalletti opined:
I’ve had many matches with injury problems, but never remembered who wasn’t there, as I focus on those who are available.
The pressure is on us to win and we will play for the victory. I will keep the forward choices to myself until tomorrow night, so at least there’s some element of surprise…
I can say Kevin Strootman will start in midfield, as he is one of those players who individually has the quality to fight back when things don’t go well and his presence is important.
We learned a lot from the last game, from the mistakes we made and to ensure we won’t do it again. I see a Roma side that has grown a great deal recently and feel a different atmosphere too, as the players do not accept failing to win after a performance like that at Empoli.
It almost becomes an obsession, trying to find out why they didn’t win. That is a sign of growth
While I won't argue with his point about Strootman, the bit about Roma’s obsession is a tad worrisome because they don’t seem to be applying whatever lessons it is they learn from those defeats. Coughing away a two goal lead in all of two minutes in their last Europa League fixture wasn’t necessarily damning in and of itself—they’re still tied for the group lead—but a repeat of that performance, to any magnitude of ineptness, might jeopardize their chances of advancing.
Quite honestly, I’m still not sure where I stand on Roma’s mere inclusion in this competition—on the one hand, it distracts from their domestic mission, while on the other it may be their best bet to end their trophy drought—but the struggles they’ve exhibited in this competition are further symptoms of Roma’s disease.
Either way, with several likely wrinkles in the lineup, it should be interesting to watch how Spalletti manages this shortage.