Some of the most difficult matches to predict a starting XI are Europa League group stage matches. It’s European football, but not on the same level as that of the Champions League, so you can never be sure just how strong of a line-up a manager will put out. Italian teams in particular are notorious for not taking the Europa League quite as a seriously as they probably should—something we hope Roma doesn’t do.
No matter your opinion on how Roma should approach its opening round trip to Bern, the fact that Roma has seven matches between now and November 8th should condition Fonseca’s line-up decisions in Roma’s upcoming midweek Europa League affairs. And considering Roma travel to the San Siro to face top of the table Milan on Monday, this match looks like an ideal candidate for some turnover.
In fact, Fonseca confirmed that we will indeed see turnover for this one. “We’ll see probably more than five or six changes. It’s important to rotate the squad at this time.”
As Sean and I speculated on the most recent episode of Across the Romaverse, this could be a situation where Pau Lopez finally returns to the starting XI. But, with how well Antonio Mirante has played, how can Fonseca not play him? That’s why I’d expect to see the Italian between the sticks.
In front of whoever starts in goal, Roma will be missing some key pieces. Chris Smalling remains sidelined with a minor knee issue, while Gianluca Mancini is suspended for this one after his red card against Sevilla in August. With that pair out, I expect to see Fonseca go with a four man back line centered by Roger Ibañez and Max Kumbulla. Meanwhile, with Riccardo Calafiori unable to play after his Covid diagnosis, Leonardo Spinazzola should be looking at another start at left-back. Finally, I see Bruno Peres spelling Davide Santon on the right.
With a return to Fonseca’s 4-2-3-1 for this one, Roma will deploy a double pivot. With Amadou Diawara also recovering from Covid and Jordan Veretout looking a bit fatigued at times on Sunday, I’m tipping Bryan Cristante and Gonzalo Villar to start. Cristante played well on Sunday, so Fonseca might as well ride the hot hand. Meanwhile, this is a perfect match to get members of Roma’s young Spanish contingent, like Villar, some playing time.
Moving forward, I would expect at least one of Pedro or Henrikh Mkhitaryan to be rested. I expect Carles Perez to start in the attacking midfield trio with Lorenzo Pellegrini and most likely Mkhitaryan. Even though this looks like a great opportunity to rest Edin Dzeko, I expect the Bosnian to start after Sunday’s brace. However, keep an eye out for Borja Mayoral, as it’s possible he could get the call on the wing or at striker to spell Mkhi or Dzeko.