The scenario we worried about all week has come to fruition: all three of Jordan Veretout, Gianluca Mancini, and Chris Smalling have been officially ruled out of Sunday’s match at the Olimpico. Fonseca gave updates on the situations of both Smalling and Veretout.
“No, they are not ready for the game. Smalling has trained with the group today, he’s doing better, we expect to have him back next week. With Veretout I’ve decided not to risk him for this one.”
With that news, Roma will be short three of its regular starters, leaving Fonseca with some big decisions to make. In addition to that trio, also missing from the match day roster are long term absentees Nicolò Zaniolo and Javier Pastore.
In defense, Fonseca will have to decide who plays in the three man backline with Bryan Cristante and Roger Ibañez. Max Kumbulla and Federico Fazio are both back after their bouts with coronavirus. Meanwhile, Juan Jesus remains the other option.
“We’ll see tomorrow. The truth is we don’t have a lot of central defenders available right now. Fazio and Kumbulla both had to stop for a while, so they are not in the best shape. We’ll see if one of them plays.”
Normally, I’d peg Kumbulla to start, but he was held out of Thursday’s Europa League match and Fonseca's words don’t inspire much confidence that he’s ready. After seeing that quote, I’m going to predict that Juan Jesus gets the starting nod.
Who starts behind the trio of Ibanez, Cristante, and Juan Jesus is also not clear. Antonio Mirante had established himself as the first choice keeper domestically. However, after last week’s poor performance some are calling for Pau Lopez. In his presser, Fonseca simply said he knows who will start tomorrow, but nothing beyond that. I’m going to tip Mirante, as it’d be harsh to sit him after just one poor match.
Moving forward, Leonardo Spinazzola and Rick Karsdorp look like they’ll retain their starting spots. Some in the media had questioned if Spinazzola could play in defense with Riccardo Calafiori starting at left wing-back. Fonseca quickly poured cold water over that idea, while attempting to slow the hype train just a bit.
“I have a slightly different opinion to some of you. For me Calafiori is a young player with potential – but he needs to improve, he needs to learn, he needs to grow. He’s young and so that’s all very normal.
“For you all, however, he’s the best in the world right now. And that’s not a good thing, it doesn’t help young players. He had a good game, I was pleased, and he’s improving – we believe in him and his potential, but that’s it. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
Fonseca’s last big decision comes in the central midfield where Fonseca will have to replace Veretout. Lorenzo Pellegrini looks to be a sure starter, which means Fonseca will have to choose between Gonzalo Villar and Amadou Diawara to be his partner. Fonseca was asked if Villar and Pellegrini lacked the physicality to play together, but he dodged the question.
“I don’t have too many different options in midfield either right now. Tomorrow two of Pellegrini, Villar and Amadou Diawara will play.”
Of late, it seems that Villar has climb up the pecking order, so I’ll tip the Spaniard. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Diawara if Fonseca wants a more defensive player to slow Sassuolo’s potent attack.
The one position group that seems to be set is the attack. Despite poor performances from all three of Edin Dzeko, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Pedro against Napoli, the trio of ex-Premier League attackers will retain their starting places.