Over the international break, it felt like one step forward and two steps back on the injury front for Roma. The Giallorossi received the good news that Leonardo Spinazzola will be back in the match day squad after missing out on the first two matches. However, disheartening news arrived from Turkey, where Cengiz Ünder was injured on national team duty. Further tests revealed that the young Turk will be on the shelf for over a month; a big blow considering Fonseca’s reliance on wingers. Ünder will join Diego Perotti and Davide Zappacosta on the injured list this week.
With the injuries to Perotti and now Ünder, Henrikh Mkhitaryan couldn’t have arrived at a better time from Arsenal, considering Roma’s current dearth of wingers. The Armenian returns from international duty in good form, after scoring a brace against Bosnia. He’s expected to make his first Roma start right off the bat. The question is: will he replace Perotti on the left or Ünder on the right? The answer is looking more and more like the former.
In that scenario, Justin Kluivert would be the odd man out. If Mkhitaryan is played on the left, then Nicolò Zaniolo will slide out wide right to fill in for Ünder. The chain reaction continues with Lorenzo Pellegrini moving up from the double pivot to replace Zaniolo at the trequartista position. Of course, leading the attack in front of that trio will be Edin Dzeko.
Playing behind the new look attack will be a new look double pivot, as well. Bryan Cristante is expected to retain his starting place. However, with Pellegrini moving into a more advanced role, he will have a new partner: Jordan Veretout. The former Fiorentina man will get his first Roma start and will be tasked with helping protect what has been a vulnerable defense.
Speaking of the defense, we could see our third debutante. Joining Mkhitaryan and Veretout on that list will likely be Chris Smalling. The Manchester United loanee will partner Federico Fazio in the center of defense. Meanwhile, flanking them will be Aleksandar Kolarov and Alessandro Florenzi at the full back positions. Finally, rounding out the starting XI will be Pau Lopez between the sticks.
It looks like the injury bug may have struck again. Reports this morning state that Smalling left practice early with an apparent muscle injury yesterday. His status for Sunday is still unknown. If he indeed misses out expect Gianluca Mancini to start in defense.