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Pellegrini in Doubt for Genoa Match, Zaniolo Could Take His Place in New Formation

With his bulky left knee still bothering him, Lorenzo Pellegrini remains doubtful for Sunday's Genoa match. In his absence, José Mourinho is reportedly considering a massive tactical shift, with Nicolo Zaniolo playing a critical creative role.

AS Roma Training Session Photo by Luciano Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Even with the league closing their shutters for the international break, Roma hasn't been able to shake their much-publicized injury woes. The club dodged a bullet when Marash Kumbulla avoided any serious injury after limping off the pitch in Albania's World Cup qualifier against England last weekend, but they may not be quite as lucky with club captain Lorenzo Pellegrini, whose troublesome left knee could keep him out of Sunday's match against the Genoa Cricket and Football Club.

Pellegrini, 25, has already amassed nearly 1,500 minutes in all competitions for club and country since late August. While Pellegrini hasn't sustained any significant injuries this season, he has been troubled by inflammation in his left knee; an issue that nearly cost him Roma's recent matches against Bodø/Glimt and Venezia. And according to reporting from the Corriere dello Sport and Il Messaggero, Pellegrini's pesky left knee could cause him to miss Sunday's match against Genoa.

According to the CdS, Pellegrini required painkiller treatments prior to Roma's trip to Venezia last weekend. While he played 90 mostly effective minutes in Roma's 3-2 defeat, it likely came at a cost, as the lingering inflammation and pain caused Pellegrini to miss Italy's ill-fated qualifiers against Switzerland and Northern Ireland last week.

Although the club opted for a conservative treatment regime, Pellegrini remains doubtful for Roma's crucial round 13 fixture against Genoa. In his absence, the Corriere dello Sport speculates that José Mourinho may use Pellegrini's absence as an excuse to experiment.

Without Pellegrini, it's natural to assume that Mourinho would simply slide Henrikh Mkhitaryan into the hole of a 4-2-3-1, allowing his veteran playmaker to pull the strings in attack. And while that may still happen, Mourinho could completely flip the script without Pellegrini, rolling out a 3-4-1-2 with Nicolo Zaniolo serving as the de facto trequartista, sitting behind a Tammy Abraham-Eldor Shomurodov striker pairing.

Injuries or not, with his club stagnating (only five points from their past six matches), Mourinho has to do something to shake his squad up, and if this temporary setback invigorates the club, it could be a blessing in disguise.