After resting some of his big names for Wednesday’s midweek fixture against bottom of the table Crotone, Paulo Fonseca will have almost all of his big guns available this weekend. The return of Leonardo Spinazzola, along with Edin Dzeko escaping a minor muscle scare this week, means that Fonseca will only be without Pedro and Antonio Mirante of his regular starters, neither of whom have been guaranteed starters lately.
Fans of Lorenzo Pellegrini in a more advanced role won't be dismayed at Pedro's inability to recover in time for Sunday’s match. Additionally, Mirante has been less than secure in big matches this season, so Pau Lopez may well have been given the nod regardless. Other than Pedro and Mirante, only part-time players Davide Santon, Federico Fazio, and Riccardo Calafiori remain out.
With Mirante’s confirmed absence, Lopez will again start in goal. This will be the biggest challenge of the season for the Spaniard this season, who has only played against mid to lower table sides thus far. Meanwhile, Daniel Fuzato, who just returned from loan will back him up.
In front of Lopez, we will see the preferred trio of Chris Smalling, Gianluca Mancini, and Roger Ibañez. One thing to keep an eye on in this match is Ibañez’s discipline, as the Brazilian is one yellow card away from suspension with Lazio looming on Friday. However, when considering table position, I wouldn’t expect Fonseca to hold Ibañez out, even with the Derby della Capitale on Friday.
Moving out wide, Fonseca’s preferred wingback pairings will be restored with the return of Spinazzolam as the Italian will retake his place on the left with the resurgent Rick Karsdorp manning the right. In between that duo in the center midfield will almost certainly be Jordan Veretout, who was rested on Wednesday. However, who partners him is likely the one position up in the air for this one, and Fonseca wouldn’t tip his hand in the pre-match presser, saying simply that two of Veretout, Cristante and Gonzalo Villar will play.
I’d think that Bryan Cristante and Gonzalo Villar are vying for the second spot in the double pivot even though Fonseca threw Veretout’s name into the mix. The Roma manager will have a tough call here after both players put in strong midweek performances. Villar has been the preferred option in recent weeks, but Cristante could be favored for his experience and physical presence. Even though there’s a good chance Cristante starts, I’m going to tip Villar with how well he’s played of late.
Moving forward into the attack, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pellegrini will form the attacking midfield partnership with Pedro out. Playing in front of them will be Edin Dzeko. Dzeko and Pellegrini should both be fresh after second half appearances midweek.
Who should partner Veretout in midfield against Inter?
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