Just two weeks ago we witnessed what was probably the most embarrassing result in our time as Romanisti. Roma traveled to the frigid northern reaches of Europe on a Thursday night to face Bodø/Glimt in a match with low expectations, assuming they'd waltz right through with a victory.
And that assumption likely contributed to the result, which was completely contrary to Roma's expectations, as Bodø quickly raced out to a 6-1 victory. In the match, perhaps t the behest of the fans, José Mourinho made heavy changes to his usual starting eleven, swapping out nine players only to see his proverbial second team run off the pitch with their tail between their legs.
That result precipitated some harsh judgment for many of the reserves, who already didn’t have the manager’s faith. Since that fateful night, we’ve seen Borja Mayoral, Amadou Diawara, Bryan Reynolds, and Gonzalo Villar relegated to the practice squad—not suiting up for the three subsequent league matches.
So, this time around, line-up turnover will be much lighter as Mourinho confirmed that we won’t see him repeat the same mistake.
“We got everything wrong in Bodo. I don’t want to say that ‘just this’ or ‘just that’ was at fault. We lost as a team. And tomorrow we want to win as a team.
“Obviously it won’t be the same line-up as last time. Clearly. I was a bit too scared before the first meeting, but I won’t be this time. I was concerned about the cold, the pitch, the injuries, the tiredness … I was worried about everything, except worried about losing. I made mistakes, we all made mistakes. But the same team won’t play tomorrow.”
With that in mind, it’ll likely be a much more “first team” starting XI. However, Roma will be without captain Lorenzo Pellegrini, who had some left knee inflammation after the loss to Milan on Sunday. Aside from Pellegrini, Chris Smalling remains out injured while newcomer Felix Afena-Gyan is not part of Roma’s UEFA roster.
With that in mind, don’t expect more than a couple of changes to Roma’s starting eleven from the last few Serie A matches. Rui Patricio will defend Roma’s goal and in front of him expect to see a defense of Karsdorp, Mancini, Ibañez, and Viña. It would be unlikely that we see Max Kumbulla or Riccardo Calafiori after their subpar performances in Norway.
Where we could see a change is in the midfield double pivot. It’s possible that Ebrima Darboe could start alongside Bryan Cristante—giving Jordan Veretout a rest. Meanwhile, the attacking third of the formation will likely see the most turnover. With Pellegrini out, Mkhitaryan will likely slide into a more central role, which potentially opens up the left wing for El Shaarawy. One other change we could see is at right-wing where Carles Pérez— who scored Roma’s only goal in Norway—and could spell Zaniolo, who’s had a heavy workload of late after two injury riddled seasons.
Rounding out the starting eleven will be Tammy Abraham, who Mourinho spoke about in his presser.
“The problem is always with us. It’s not about indviduals. He’s a player that has come here from a different culture: different footballing culture, different refereeing culture, different social culture … I don’t think that is ever easy.
“But he started pretty well. He made a very positive impact. Right now he’s going through a quieter spell. But he is a great player and we have confidence in him. There’s no issue. He will be back to his best, he will score, we have complete confidence in him.”