Roma enters the second leg against Braga with a 2-0 advantage to its name. A lead that looks even better when you consider the two goals were away goals. However, as we know from past experiences, teams can’t afford to rest on their laurels in Europe with such a narrow advantage.
With that in mind, Roma will likely look to score at least one more goal, which could effectively kill off the tie. At the same time, Roma will have to be careful not to stretch itself too thin when attacking, considering the makeshift backline that Paulo Fonseca will be forced to play yet again.
Times aren’t as desperate as they were over the weekend when Federico Fazio was forced into the starting XI because Bryan Cristante returns from the injury he suffered in the first leg. However, there isn’t much good news to report on the other three injured center backs: Chris Smalling, Roger Ibañez, and Max Kumbulla. Fonseca issued an update on that trio during his pre-match presser.
“It’s difficult, I think for Smalling and Ibanez [to be back for the weekend]. I think that Kumbulla is the closest of the three to returning to fitness.”
With those updates in mind and the fact that Fazio and Juan Jesus were left off of the Europa League roster, it’s clear that Fonseca will again have to cobble together his back three. Cristante’s return means that he will center to defense. That will allow Gianluca Mancini to shift back to the right and Leonardo Spinazzola will again cover the left. That trio is expected to start in front of Pau Lopez who will be looking for his fourth straight clean sheet.
Moving into the midfield it looks like Amadou Diawara will get his second consecutive Europa League start after a strong showing in the first leg. With Cristante forced into defense, Jordan Veretout is his likely partner in the central midfield. The wide positions should again be taken up by Rick Karsdorp and Bruno Peres with Spinazzola again forced into the back three.
In attack is where we will see quite a bit of turnover. Edin Dzeko should replace Borja Mayoral at the striker position. He will be joined by Stephan El Shaarawy and Pedro after Fonseca confirmed the former would start for the first time since his Roma return. That would afford Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lorenzo Pellegrini some rest ahead of Sunday’s big match against Milan.