After being humbled by its heavy derby defeat to Lazio on Friday, Roma must bounce back in the Coppa Italia or risk being eliminated from the competition for the second time in five years to Spezia. On paper, Roma is favored but if there’s anything history can tell us, is it’s to not underestimate smaller sides in cup competitions. And for Roma, there is a bit of unfamiliarity with Spezia, as the Aquilotti are the only side the Giallorossi haven’t play thus far in league competition—that will happen on Saturday.
It’ll be interesting to see how Fonseca’s side approaches this match after Lazio ran roughshod over the Giallorossi on Friday. However, one thing is for certain, there should be ample turnover in Fonseca’s squad. A cup competition against Spezia was likely always bringing some changes, but the heavy defeat will likely prompt Fonseca to make just a couple more.
One player who likely won’t be changed is goalkeeper Pau Lopez. Antonio Mirante remains out, while Daniel Fuzato has only recently returned from his failed loan spell in Portugal. Therefore, this match will give the Spaniard another chance to lock down Roma’s starting job.
In front of Lopez, Gianluca Mancini is the only member of the back three guaranteed to retain his place. Mancini will be suspended for yellow card accumulations on Sunday, so expect to see him in the cup. Meanwhile, Roger Ibañez will be replaced by Max Kumbulla, after a horror show performance against Lazio. Chris Smalling’s fitness was questionable heading into Friday’s match, so don’t be surprised if Federico Fazio spells him in this one.
Moving forward, in the central midfield, both Gonzalo Villar and Jordan Veretout should be rested. If so, they’d be replaced by Bryan Cristante and Amadou Diawara. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Veretout rather than Diawara considering the Guinean’s poor form this season and the fact Veretout only played 45 minutes against Lazio. On the wings, Leonardo Spinazzola will retain his place on the left as he continues to work back to full match fitness. Meanwhile, Bruno Peres will spell Rick Karsdorp on the right.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan could finally get a bit of rest ahead of this match. The Armenian has played a ton of minutes so far for Roma and the Giallorossi would be wise to rest him. He and Lorenzo Pellegrini should be replaced by Pedro and Carles Pérez in the attacking midfield. Rounding out the starting XI will be Borja Mayoral, who will replace Edin Dzeko at striker, giving the attack a real Spanish flavor.