When Roma host SPAL at the Olimpico on Sunday, Paulo Fonseca will be a bit limited in his player selection. It’s not quite the injury crisis that struck back in October, but there will be some key absences—namely starting center backs Gianluca Mancini and Chris Smalling. Mancini misses out due to yellow card accumulation, while Smalling is out injured until the new year. Also missing out on this one will be Bryan Cristante, Justin Kluivert, Javier Pastore, Davide Santon, Davide Zappacosta, and Antonio Mirante.
The biggest difference between the two situations is the areas in which the injuries occurred. Back in October, the center of defense was at full health and emerged as a strength of the side, so much so, that Mancini covered in the midfield. Now, with the absences for this one, Fonseca will be forced into some changes along the back.
With Smalling and Mancini out, it will be a combination of Federico Fazio and either Mert Cetin or Juan Jesus in front of Pau Lopez. Currently, Gazzetta dello Sport has the Brazilian as a slight favorite to start at 55/45%. Fonseca didn’t give much away in his presser saying, “Jesus-Cetin? We’ll see tomorrow, they’re both options. One of the two will play.”
Flanking them at fullback will be Aleksandar Kolarov and Leonardo Spinazzola. Meanwhile, the midfield double pivot will again be Amadou Diawara and Jordan Veretout, as any opportunity to rest those players is almost nonexistent with Cristante out. Fonseca was asked about the possibility of playing Lorenzo Pellegrini deep, but ruled that out as an option, saying, “Lorenzo Pellegrini is hugely important to us in that No. 10 role - so I’m not thinking about playing him deeper tomorrow.”
That moves us into attack where Pellegrini will play as the number 10 and Edin Dzeko will lead the line. Expect Nicolò Zaniolo to return to right wing after being rested for the majority of Thursday’s Europa League match. Lastly, on the left wing Fonseca will likely choose between Diego Perotti and Henrikh Mkhitaryan with the Armenian being heavily favored.
Who should Fonseca start alongside Fazio in central defense?
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