As Roma battle through seven matches in three weeks, a pattern has begun to emerge: with a fairly weak Europa League group, Paulo Fonseca has opted to start his regulars in the weekend Serie A matches and mainly reserves midweek. That pattern should continue with Fiorentina visiting the Olimpico on Sunday evening.
After making eight changes against CSKA Sofia on Thursday, we should see a similar amount of turnover tomorrow. Against Sofia, only Leonardo Spinazzola, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Max Kumbulla kept their places from Monday’s draw against Milan and the former two were pulled at halftime. Those subs looked premeditated as Fonseca likely wanted to save the legs of two of his biggest minute eaters.
Against the Viola on Sunday, Roma will still be without Amadou Diawara and Riccardo Calafirori due to Covid. Meanwhile, Davide Santon joined the injured list this week—joining longer term absentees Nicolò Zaniolo and Javier Pastore. Carles Perez trained individually today, but should be available off the bench.
Roma were given the boost of Chris Smalling’s return mid-week. The Englishman made his first appearance of the season and played 60 minutes in the center of defense. In today’s pre-match presser Fonseca didn’t indicate either way if he’d start again tomorrow saying:
“Smalling did not play the full 90 minutes on Thursday, we’ll see tomorrow if he’s ready to start the game.”
The decision on Smalling is one of the few the Roma manager will likely have to make. I’d imagine Roger Ibañez and Gianluca Mancini are locks to start after not playing Thursday. Then I’d tip Smalling if he’s ready to go. If not, Kumbulla will get the nod. That group will play in front of Antonio Mirante, who has arguably been Roma’s MVP through five matches.
The other decision Fonseca will have to make is at right wing-back. After starting Bruno Peres at that position Thursday, I think he’ll go with Rick Karsdorp tomorrow. Karsdorp was slated to start against Sofia, but reportedly didn’t feel like he had the legs after starting against Milan. He should be rested enough for this one.
Opposite of Karsdorp will be Spinazzola on the left wing. Meanwhile, the central midfield will again be comprised of Jordan Veretout and my man of the match from Monday: Lorenzo Pellegrini.
Moving into attack, Fonseca will start his standard veteran trio of Mkhitaryan, Pedro, and Edin Dzeko. The trio has been very good to open the season and the drop in quality has been apparent when they’ve been rested. Fonseca will have to find ways to keep them fresh, especially after acknowledging the importance of Roma’s senatori.
Pedro, Mkhi, and Smalling all have found new leases on their careers in Rome and Fonseca explained why.
“I think perhaps, in other leagues, once players reach 30 people look too much at their age. Here, however, we still focus on the quality players have - and I think that’s a really positive thing.”
Leaving you with that, here’s our CDT projected XI featuring five 30+ year olds.