Thanks to the pressure and scorn of the local media and the demands of a passionate fan base, Roma managers seldom have an easy day on the job. After basking in the glow of his club's dramatic two-nil win over Genoa on Sunday, José Mourinho should be living on easy street, but with two matches on the docket this week and a midfield ravaged by illness, injury, and suspensions, an already demanding job just became that much more difficult.
After losing Bryan Cristante and Gonzalo Villar to positive COVID tests late last week, Mourinho's midfield received another dose of bad news on Sunday when Jordan Veretout was booked in the 40th minute—his fifth yellow card this season. As a result, Veretout will be suspended for Roma's home match against Torino this Sunday, though he will remain eligible for the club's Europa Conference League match against Zorya on Thursday.
According to Il Tempo, Mourinho plans on resting Lorenzo Pellegrini for Thursday's match against Zorya, but with Torino looming on Sunday and his squad down two key midfielders, Mourinho will have to reach deep into his bag of tricks to make it out of this week alive. According to the Corriere dello Sport, Mourinho will likely turn to two of the club's youngest midfielders to stem the tide: 19-year-old Edoardo Bove and 20-year-old Ebrima Darboe; two players who have combined to play 227 minutes in all competitions this season.
With Veretout eligible to play on Thursday, the Zorya match is less of a concern, but the sudden mystery shrouding Mourinho's tactical approach muddies the waters. Il Tempo speculates that, regardless of the formation, Nicolo Zaniolo will take Pellegrini's spot on Thursday, likely serving as an attacking midfielder in support of Tammy Abraham and/or Eldor Shomurodov, leaving either Bove or Darboe to play alongside/in support of Jordan Veretout in midfield.
But Sunday's match against Torino will truly test the limits of Mourinho’s imagination. With Veretout suspended and Cristante and Villar ineligible due to virus protocols, Roma will be down three midfielders, meaning there is a chance, however small it may be, that we see Bove and Darboe start as the double pivot in a 4-2-3-1. However, if Mourinho sticks with the three-man defense, things could get really interesting. On Sunday against Torino, we could see Zaniolo as an attacking midfielder, Pellegrini in a withdrawn role, and one of Bove or Darboe as the last line of defense in front of the backline, which could also include Chris Smalling.
There's never a dull moment in the Eternal City, but circumstances seem to be conspiring against The Special One as Roma preps for another busy week. But, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention and if this forced tinkering gives Mourinho more options in the long run, Roma could emerge stronger thanks to these temporary inconveniences.
Which emergency midfielder should see the most minutes this week?