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Di Francesco Left with Big Decisions Ahead of Pivotal Match

Sunday’s match against Milan could be the most important of the season to date, but the starting XI could be filled with more questions than answers.

ACF Fiorentina v AS Roma - Coppa Italia Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Wednesday’s Coppa Italia thrashing at the hands of Federico Chiesa and the rest of the Viola still stings. Roma got it all wrong and nobody who saw the field, save Daniele De Rossi who made a late entrance, can be spared from the criticism. The team was a mess and the players put in an embarrassing display. Not quite what EDF was hoping for ahead of Sunday’s pivotal match at the Olimpico against Milan. The disgraceful performance of so many of his players, especially the veterans, will make his choosing a starting XI all the more difficult against the Rossoneri.

The dual suspensions of Steven N’Zonzi and Bryan Cristante, coupled with the injuries to Diego Perotti, Cengiz Ünder, and Juan Jesus will leave the personnel at EDF’s disposal limited. However, the three goal comeback by Atalanta, followed by the 7-1 smack down at the hands of Fiorentina most certainly will have planted some seeds of doubt into the Roma tactician’s mind with the players that are available. Some of the “senatori” like Aleksandar Kolarov, Alessandro Florenzi, Kostas Manolas, and Edin Dzeko were nothing short of dreadful against Fiorentina. Will EDF have the nerve bench any of them?

Robin Olsen was under heavy fire on Wednesday, as he plucked the ball out of the back of his net seven times, and didn’t do much else. None of the goals were “on him” in that match, but he’ll look to play a more decisive role against Milan and Krzysztof Piątek. In front of Olsen there could be a slight shake-up, but with limited options it’ll likely be the usual suspects.

With JJ injured and Ivan Marcano looking lost against Atalanta, EdF will hope that Manolas and Fazio can bounce back with a strong performance. Additionally, with no real alternative on the left, Kolarov will try to quickly forget the images of Chiesa running circles around him, and put in a more defensively sound showing. The one change in defense will likely be at right back. Florenzi was dreadful, and Rick Karsdorp looks favored to start, but don’t count out Davide Santon getting a shot.

With both Cristante and N’Zonzi out on yellow card accumulation suspensions, the double pivot will likely be a forced combination of Daniele De Rossi and Lorenzo Pellegrini; and that might not a bad thing. If De Rossi is fit enough to give it a go, the combo could compliment each other well. De Rossi would provide leadership and a defensive presence in front of the back line, while Pellegrini picks his spots to join the attack. In his presser EDF spoke on DDR’s return.

“I hope he’ll be involved and can help the team generally by making his presence felt and leading the others out on the pitch. There’s a small question mark about his fitness because he hasn’t played for a long time but that’s the only doubt really. He’s been training better and has been able to do everything without feeling any pain. That’s important to start with.”

In front of the all-Roman double pivot will likely be an all-Italian trio. With Perotti and Ünder both injured, and Justin Kluivert drawing criticism from EDF last week, choices on the wings will be limited. Stephan El Shaarawy will look to run his Serie A goal scoring hot streak to three against his former club on the left. Meanwhile, after his dreadful display in defense on Wednesday, Florenzi will likely push up and start on the right wing. With Pellegrini playing a deep lying role, and Javier Pastore being unbearably bad against the Viola, Nicolò Zaniolo will shift back to the treqaurtista position; a role that has suited him well this season.

The biggest decision EDF will likely have to make, is deciding who leads the line. If you asked this question prior to Wednesday, starting Dzeko would’ve been a no-brainier after his double in Bergamo. However, after Dzeko lost his head in Florence, one wonders if Di Francesco could go with Patrik Schick. In the end, it should be the Big Bosnian getting a shot to redeem himself, as he can lead the line in a way that Schick has yet to show the ability to do.

Corriere dello Sport