At his Saturday press conference, Paulo Fonseca confirmed the news we all knew was coming. Chris Smalling and Roger Ibañez are not ready to return from their respective injury issues.
So with those two out, Roma will again be without two of its three first-choice central defenders. Additionally, Edin Dzeko joins them on the shelf after leaving Thursday’s Europa League match with a groin injury. It was later confirmed that the Big Bosnian will miss at least two weeks. However, Roma did receive just a bit of good news on the injury front as Max Kumbulla is ready to return from his injury,
While Kumbulla’s return is positive news, it doesn’t seem like the Albanian is ready to start as part of the trio in front of Pau Lopez. That means that, similar to Thursday, the backline will likely feature Gianluca Mancini and Bryan Cristante. However, unlike the Braga match or last weekend’s match where Rick Karsdorp or Leonardo Spinazzola slid back from the wing, it doesn’t look like that’ll be the case against Milan.
Fonseca confirmed Spinazzola’s return to the left saying, “We will see tomorrow, but I can say that Spinazzola will play on the left.”
With Spinazzola confirmed to start at his natural left wing-back position and Karsdorp likely on the right, Fonseca needs a third center back. That looks like it’ll be Federico Fazio with Kumbulla unlikely to start, a point Fonseca addressed when asked about the possibility of seeing Cristante in defense along with Veretout, Villar, and Diawara in midfield like Thursday to help mitigate Milan’s high press.
“We have our playing style and that doesn’t changed based on the results. We may be playing against Milan, but we won’t change our overarching approach and identity. Both against the big sides and the ‘smaller’ sides that like to press high up, we still want to build from the back and that won’t change because of a specific opponent.”
It’s an idea that Fonseca seemed to shoot down, and looks even less likely with Spinazzola confirmed on the left. Thus, I expect to see Villar and Veretout anchoring the midfield.
Playing ahead of them will be Lorenzo Pellegrini and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the attacking midfield. Meanwhile, with Dzeko out, it's a certainty that Borja Mayoral will lead the line. Roma’s attack should be well-rested as none of the three played more than 45 minutes against Braga.