Roma is finishing out a grueling stretch of seven matches in just about three weeks. And while the midweek competition hasn’t been the stoutest, that many matches in such a short timeframe can test even the deepest side’s depth. However, for the most part, Roma has passed its first scheduling test of the season.
The Giallorossi are unbeaten during the first six matches of the seven match run and have to this point—knock on wood—come out with just David Santon and Carles Perez landing on the trainer’s table. The key to that good health likely comes down to Paulo Fonseca’s approach to his starting XI during the busy stretch.
As we’ve discussed plenty of times in the last few weeks, both in print and on the podcast, Fonseca has effectively relied on his whole roster to form almost two completely different line-ups. With most of the “second team” players playing the majority of the minutes in the Europa League, Fonseca has been able to rely on his big guns in Serie A without running them into the ground.
So, with mostly “second team” players taking it to Cluj on Thursday, Fonseca will have the majority of his preferred XI rested up for Genoa. That is with one key exception: Edin Dzeko. As we reported yesterday, Dzeko tested positive for COVID and will miss Sunday’s match. He joins Amadou Diawara and Riccardo Calafiori on the positive test list.
With an international break on the horizon, it isn’t the end of the world for Dzeko to sit out the trip to Liguria. However, Roma will hope its talisman striker doesn’t miss as much time as Diawara and Calafiori who have been out for nearly a month with the virus.
However, outside of Dzeko’s absence, we should see Fonseca’s preferred XI for this one. That XI starts in the back with veteran keeper Antonio Mirante, whose strong play has relegated Pau Lopez to Europa League duty. In front of Mirante will be the center back trio of Gianluca Mancini, Chris Smalling, and Roger Ibañez.
Moving into the midfield, we’ll see the double pivot of Jordan Veretout and Lorenzo Pellegrini. Flanking them will be Leonardo Spinazzola on the left and Rick Karsdorp on the right.
In the attacking midfield, veterans Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pedro will play in support of lone striker Borja Mayoral. Mayoral opened his Roma scoring account on Thursday with a brace and the Giallorossi will hope that confidence will carry over into his first league start.