I’ve learned a few things about Paulo Fonseca in his first few months as Roma manager. One: He’s generally transparent in his press conferences. Two: He sticks with what he believes works from a tactical perspective. The second is something everyone thought Marco Giampaolo would do with Sunday’s opponent, Milan, except he didn’t. Now he’s looking for work, and Fonseca will prepare his team to face a Stefano Piolo led Milan.
As everyone is aware of by now, Roma finds itself in one of its worst injury crisis in recent memory. And that’s saying something, considering how the past few years have gone from a health standpoint. Fonseca had to get creative in Thursday’s Europa League match, and some of his ideas will likely carry over to Sunday; namely Gianluca Mancini featuring in the midfield.
The young Italian center back had already established himself in the XI in recent weeks. However, he added a new layer to his value with a solid midfield performance against the Bundesliga leaders on Thursday. That’s something that could be invaluable in seeing Fonseca’s side survive the injury crisis. Expect to see him back in a similar role against the Rossoneri, as Fonseca all but confirmed in his Saturday presser.
“Yes, it’s possible, particularly as we don’t have many alternatives at the moment. He played well and there’s no need to make any changes in that regard.”
With Mancini holding down the midfield alongside Jordan Veretout, expect to see the center back pairing of Chris Smalling and Federico Fazio in front of Pau Lopez. Flanking them will likely be Aleksandar Kolarov and Leonardo Spinazzola with Florenzi pushing into the attack.
In addition to the injured trio of Lorenzo Pellegrini, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Cengiz Ünder, Roma will also be without the suspended Justin Kluivert in attack. Hence the need for Florenzi to play higher up. Though Fonseca was more coy when answering about Florenzi on the wing.
“At the moment I’m considering all options, given the reduced size of the squad. I’m not ruling anything out in that position.”
Playing in the attacking trio behind Edin Dzeko with Florenzi will likely be Nicoló Zaniolo and Diego Perotti. But don’t be surprised if Javier Pastore finds his way into the XI with neither he or Perotti 90 minutes fit. It’s likely both play at some point with one possibly subbing the other. Fonseca spoke on the two of them.
“Perotti has been training with us for a while. He’s ready to play, but I don’t know if he’ll last the 90 minutes. As for Pastore, with the games coming thick and fast at the moment, it’s not been possible to do much rotation. It’s true that he’s played more than he normally would, but we can’t afford to make too many changes.”
The bench will be thin for this one, as four of the 21 players called up are members of the Primavera squad. When you take them, Mirante, and Cetin out the equation, that leaves Fonseca with four senior team options: Pastore, Antonucci, Juan Jesus, and Santon. It will be interesting to see how Fonseca utilities the bench as this one plays out, especially in attack.
Corriere dello Sport projects the line-up to morph into more of a 4-1-4-1 with Mancini adding a more defensive presence in the midfield. Something Fonseca admitted allows Veretout to have more attacking license, but in essence Fonseca isn’t straying far from his 4-2-3-1.
“Playing Mancini in that part of the pitch gives Veretout more freedom to push up. That’s a normal situation and it’ll probably happen tomorrow as well.”
Probable Formations (Corriere dello Sport)
ROMA (4-1-4-1): Pau Lopez; Spinazzola, Smalling, Fazio, Kolarov; Mancini; Zaniolo, Veretout, Florenzi, Perotti; Dzeko. Manager:Fonseca.
MILAN (4-3-3): G. Donnarumma; Calabria, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Kessie, Biglia, Paquetà; Suso, Leao, Calhanoglu. Manager: Pioli.