Up until just over a week ago, everything was going quite well in the Romaverse. Sure, the Giallorossi couldn’t pull out the three points against Inter, but a late goal meant that Roma remained third in the table. Plus, the squad was relatively healthy heading into the derby. Although things seemed pretty good, we all know what has happened since.
Roma’s derby debacle was followed by a shocking Coppa exit to Spezia, which was made even more humiliating by the fact that it now stands as a 0-3 scoreline thanks to an extra substitution. On top of that, Fonseca reported that some of his key veterans will not be available tomorrow, including the team’s mid-season MVP Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
“Unfortunately, we have a few issues with a few of the players in our squad. Pedro is not fit, Mkhitaryan is doubtful for the game and Dzeko took a knock against Spezia and it was still an issue yesterday so will not be available for the match.”
Roma has dealt without Pedro for plenty of matches, and even Dzeko in a handful of others. However, Mkhitaryan has been the one constant in the starting XI this season. The Armenian is the only player to have started every league match for the Giallorossi —chipping in 8 goals and 8 assists in the process. Now, Fonseca enters what some would say is the most important match of his Roma career with his top player officially ruled out.
In addition, to the certain absences of Dzeko, Pedro, and Mkhitaryan, Fonseca will also be without Antonio Mirante, Federico Fazio, and Riccardo Calafiori through injury. Additionally, Gianluca Mancini is suspended due to an accumulation of yellow cards.
Due to all of the aforementioned absences, Fonseca’s choices will be very limited. With Mirante still out, Pau Lopez will remain in goal after his disastrous red card in Tuesday’s Coppa match. In front of him will likely be Roger Ibañez, Chris Smalling, and Max Kumbulla with Mancini out. There is a chance that Bryan Cristante starts over Kumbulla, but I’d tip the Albanian.
Moving into the midfield, Gonzalo Villar and Jordan Veretout will again make up the midfield double pivot. Flanking them wide will be Leonardo Spinazzola on the left-wing and Rick Karsdorp on the right-wing.
In attack is where the absences will be most heavily felt. Lorenzo Pellegrini will be the only regular available to be deployed in the attacking midfield. Since Mkhitaryan can’t go, expect to see Carles Pérez alongside Pellegrini. That duo will play in support of Borja Mayoral, who will lead the attack.
Roma will hope to get the Crotone version of Mayoral rather than Tuesday’s version who missed some great chances. Fonseca expressed faith in his young striker during the pre-match press conference.
“He seems good to me. He played really well on Tuesday, just like he did against Crotone. He created a lot of chances for the team – it’s true he missed a few too, but we cannot forget that he is still young. He always works hard.”