Since the last time Roma played, the Giallorossi roster has been boosted by some new additions to the squad: Borja Mayoral and Chris Smalling. Both signings were big news for a Roma side in need of more firepower up front and security along the backline. However, when Roma host Benevento on Sunday, only one of the two will be available.
While the return of the Englishman was long anticipated, he won’t be available for his first match back in a Roma shirt after suffering a minor knee injury in training. Smalling isn’t expected to miss considerable time, but his absence in this one delays Paulo Fonseca from making one of his toughest line-up decisions.
Smalling was brought back to start, but none of the young trio of Gianluca Mancini, Roger Ibañez, and Max Kumbulla has played his way out of the line-up. So, for at least another week, that trio of Manicni, Ibañez, and Kumbulla will start in Roma’s three man back line.
One point of speculation over the break was whether Pau Lopez would regain his starting spot behind them in goal. However, even with the extra time without a match to try and get Lopez “right”, Fonseca will be sticking with Antonio Mirante in net. Mirante has played well and Fonseca confirmed that at least for another week he’d be counted on to protect Roma’s goal.
“Mirante will be the starter against Benevento. Beyond that, we shall see.”
Moving into the midfield, I’d expect Fonseca to continue with the double pivot of Lorenzo Pellegrini and Jordan Veretout. Pellegrini is coming off a goal in international play after starting on Italy’s left wing. Roma will hope he can carry the confidence from back-to-back Azzurri starts into its midfield for this one. And it’s that positional flexibility that Fonseca values.
“Lorenzo can play in a number of different positions. For example, against Hellas Verona he played in the same role he played in for Italy. Over the first three games this season he’s done really well for us.
“In the system we use, he can play in central midfield, he can play behind the striker – he can play in different positions.”
One of the few positions that could be up for grabs is right wing back. After Rick Karsdorp was injured in Roma’s first match Davide Santon has started the last two matches. After playing well, it may be difficult for Bruno Peres to unseat the Italian, at least in this one. Therefore, I’m going to go with Santon on the right with Leonardo Spinazzola starting on the left.
Moving forward, expect the same veteran attacking trio from Roma as the last two matches. Henrikh Mkhitayran and Pedro will play in the attacking midfield behind Edin Dzeko. Despite Dzeko’s recent scoring woes, Fonseca ruled out the possibility of starting two strikers up front. So, if Mayoral is to get his Roma debut it will be as a substitute.
“It could happen, at different stages during games, where we have two strikers on the pitch. But I think it’s unlikely we’d start a game like that. It depends a bit on the context of the game. But right now the squad is working on playing with a different setup.”