Roma kick off the second half of the season on Sunday when they travel to Genoa. It was just about five months ago that we were speculating how Roma would line up in Fonseca’s first match in charge. On that day against the Grifoni, we saw Juan Jesus and Federico Fazio in the heart of defense with Lorenzo Pellegrini and Bryan Cristante in the double pivot. Boy, does that feel like ages ago.
Now, five short months later, Fonseca will have just five of the same starters against Genoa due to a combination of injury, suspension, and natural line-up evolution. Of course, gone are the days of JJ and Fazio seeing any considerable minutes with the growth of Gianluca Mancini and Chris Smalling into one of Serie A’s top partnerships. As are the days of Pellegrini sitting deep. Fonseca has certainly found better ways to line up this group of Giallorossi players. That adaptation is something he credits to Italian football as a whole.
Fonseca: "I've had to change and adapt in Italy and that's a good thing. It's not easy playing against teams with very different styles. If I saw it as a problem in the past, I don't anymore. I feel Italian football has helped me improve."— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) January 18, 2020
#ASRoma #GenoaRoma pic.twitter.com/h0dCcIzT85
However, there is still one troubling concern that continues to plague Roma and limits what Fonseca can do more than anything else: injuries. Roma’s injured list continues to be extensive, despite the recent returns of Justin Kluivert and Bryan Cristante. Antonio Mirante and Diego Perotti join that list for this one—a list that already includes Fazio, Zappacosta, Mkhitaryan, Pastore, Antonucci, and Zaniolo. Throw in the yellow card accumulation suspensions of Florenzi and Kolarov, and Fonseca is without 10 players—practically a whole starting XI.
Fonseca has found ways to continuously get the most out of his injury riddled side thanks to his aforementioned ability to adapt—Cristante in a three man D at Parma being the most recent example. He could have something up his sleeve for Genoa, but a man who is usually very coy in his pre-match pressers seemed far more straight forward this time around. I guess it’s hard to keep your cards close to your chest when you have so few.
Fonseca was asked if he would change formations with Florenzi and Kolarov suspended at full back. Fonseca was frank in saying, “I’m not thinking about changing from a 4-2-3-1 tomorrow, despite Kolarov and Florenzi being suspended. Santon and Spinazzola will start at full-back.”
With that being said, there are no mysteries in defense. Santon, Mancini, Smalling, and Spinazzola will start across the back in front of Pau Lopez. Nor did he leave the midfield open to interpretation. It will be Diawara and Veretout together again, after Fonseca confirmed Cristante isn’t ready to start two matches in a row quite yet.
It’s best if we manage him and keep a close eye on things. He’s been out injured a long time. It is not easy for him to play two consecutive games, so tomorrow he will not play.
Moving into the attack, Dzeko will lead the line as he returns from his midweek Coppa Italia suspension. Behind him, Fonseca literally has no choices. It will have to be an attacking trio of Kluivert, Pellegrini, and Ünder behind the striker. Fonseca confirmed that while lauding Kluivert’s return.
“I’m happy to have Kluivert back. He improved a lot before his injury and was an important player for us. But Perotti has been playing well lately too. I’m pleased with both of them.”
“Perotti took a knock against Parma and won’t play. So we’re a bit short - we only have Kluivert on the left and Cengiz on the right. Along with the directors, we are looking around at attacking players.”