Probable formations for the Europa League are always a tricky proposition. When playing in Europe’s second tier competition, managers often look to rest as many as starters as possible while fielding a team good enough to win. Up to this point, that’s what Paulo Fonseca has done—fielding almost an entirely different starting XI than Serie A matches while still achieving positive results.
However, in this one, Fonseca is faced with quite the dilemma: despite having six center backs on the roster, only one is healthy. And that one is Juan Jesus. Gianluca Mancini and Roger Ibañez are nursing minor muscle strains, while Chris Smalling is nursing a knee issue. To top it off Federico Fazio and Max Kumbulla aren’t ready to return from Covid. Rounding out the injured list are Davide Santon, Javier Pastore, and Nicoló Zaniolo.
| SQUAD LIST— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) November 25, 2020
Here are the players making the trip for Thursday's Europa League meeting with Cluj!
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Fonseca is confident of having back his preferred trio of Mancini, Ibañez, and Smalling on Sunday in Naples, but will have a big decision to make in this one. Roma has been in a groove since switching to a 3-4-2-1 during the summer restart. However, with Juan Jesus being the only natural CB available, sticking with three in the back would be difficult.
Therefore, I expect to see Roma shift to a four man back line with Juan Jesus and Bryan Cristante filling the central roles. Meanwhile, Fonseca did confirm that Riccardo Calafiori will start this one—spelling Spinazzola on the left. Rounding out the defense should be Bruno Peres on the right. I’d expect Pau Lopez to get the start between the sticks in this one.
With a move to a four man backline, Fonseca will likely revert to his favored 4-2-3-1 formation. In the double pivot we’d likely see Gonzalo Villar partner the recently recovered Amadou Diawara. Moving forward into the attacking midfield trio, we should see Lorenzo Pellegrini centering Carles Perez and Pedro. Meanwhile, Borja Mayoral will start at striker, but Fonseca did say that Edin Dzeko will play some minutes to test his fitness ahead of the Napoli clash.