When Roma’s starting XI was announced on Wednesday for its first match in over three months, many, including myself, were caught by surprise. Paulo Fonseca made a couple decisions that seemingly came out of nowhere. The most unexpected were Javier Pastore getting the nod at trequartista and Roger Ibanez making his Giallorossi debut in central defense.
Those decisions, along with some of the other inclusions, were likely made with Sunday’s trip to the San Siro in mind. While Samp was always going to be a tough nut to crack, Fonseca knew that it could be done without his preferred XI. That allowed him to either rest or limit the minutes of players like Gianluca Mancini and Lorenzo Pellegrini, who are just working back to full fitness.
With the Giallorossi playing on just three days rest, after more than three months off, expect a lot of turnover for this one. In fact, there will likely be five new starters for this match. Fonseca used his depth well on Wednesday and will now attempt to rotate in fresh legs without disrupting the rhythm his side found in the second half of that match.
With Pau Lopez still on the mend, Antonio Mirante will again start between the sticks. In front of the veteran Italian, expect a pair of changes. Chris Smalling and Aleksandar Kolarov will remain in the starting XI, but Ibanez will be replaced with Mancini and Bruno Peres will cede his spot to Davide Zappacosta. Meanwhile, in the midfield double-pivot, Bryan Cristante will replace a subpar Amadou Diawara alongside Jordan Veretout.
Moving into the attack, Henrikh Mkhitaryan is expected to start again wide left. However, Pellegrini and Cengiz Ünder will take over for Pastore and Carles Perez in the attacking midfield trio. Ünder and Mkhi are slight favorites to start over Justin Kluivert on the wings. Rounding out the XI, match-winner Edin Dzeko will again lead the Giallorossi line.
Roma’s only absence besides Lopez will be Nicolò Zaniolo. Meanwhile, Milan will be without Mateo Musacchio. Simon Kjaer and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were both able to make it back to training in time for this one. The Dane will be a boost to the Rossoneri back line. However, the Swede will likely start from the bench as Friday was his first training session in some time.