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Projected Formations: Roma v Empoli

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What will the starting XI look like with a new coach and decimated roster?

FC Porto v AS Roma - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images

Normally with so many players missing out through suspension and injury, this should be an easy starting XI to predict. However, adding the variable of a new manager into the mix, it becomes a bit more complicated. As we outlined earlier this weekend, Claudio Ranieri will likely be without eight players for his first match in charge. Aleksandar Kolarov, Edin Dzeko, and Federico Fazio will all miss out on this one through suspension. Meanwhile, Cengiz Ünder, Daniele De Rossi, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Kostas Manolas, and Javier Pastore will all miss out because of various injuries.

As you can see the match day squad is full of Primavera players, so Ranieri’s choices will, of course, be conditioned by those injuries and suspensions. What remains to be seen is what formation he will choose to line his side up in. During his first press conference he said that Dzeko and Schick have to play together, as he lauded the Czech’s talent. That likely means that he will go with a two striker look going forward.

Nevertheless, Dzeko is out for this one. Thus, Ranieri will have to decide whether to isolate Schick in a different formation or play a two forward look with someone like Stephan El Shaarawy partnering Schick.

I’ve seen no less than three different looks proposed by major Italian publications. Gazzetta dello Sport and Corriere dello Sport are projecting a 4-2-3-1, Eurosport a 4-1-4-1 and Sky a 4-4-2 (later adjusted to a 4-2-3-1). While I do think the 4-4-2 or even a 4-3-1-2 could be what we see for most of the rest of the season with the amount of midfield injuries, I think it’ll be unlikely this match. Therefore, I’m going to go with a 4-2-3-1 based on who Ranieri has at his disposal.

Robin Olsen will start in goal for Roma. With all of the injuries and suspensions, three of the back four are pretty much set in stone. Ivan Marcano and Juan Jesus are the only center backs available and will both start. At the same time, with Kolarv suspended and Luca Pellegrini out on loan, Davide Santon is a certainty to start at left back. Lastly, Alessandro Florenzi will likely start ahead of Rick Karsdorp on the right.

If Ranieri does indeed go with the two man midfield, expect the double pivot to feature a familiar pairing: Bryan Cristante and Steven N’Zonzi. In front of them will be an attacking trio likely comprised of El Shaarawy, Justin Kluivert, and Nicolò Zaniolo. Diego Perotti could be in the running to start out wide, but it’s unlikely after he played 120 minutes against Porto. Rounding out the XI will be Schick who will be expected to lead Roma’s line.

Roma (4-2-3-1): Olsen; Florenzi, Jesus, Marcano, Santon; Nzonzi, Cristante; Kluivert, Zaniolo, El Shaarawy; Schick.

Empoli (3-5-2): Dragowski; Veseli, Silvestre, Dell’Orco; Di Lorenzo, Acquah, Bennacer, Krunic, Pasqual; Farias, Caputo.