After going a fairly long stretch with a relatively healthy roster, the injury bug has begun to bite Roma just a bit harder. The little critter began to first stick its teeth into the defense with Max Kumbulla, Chris Smalling, and Roger Ibañez all going down simultaneously last month, then it moved to the attack where it got Edin Dzeko right in the groin. Now, we see perhaps its biggest casualty since Nicoló Zaniolo went down in September.
For this match, Ibañez and Dzeko remain out, as does Riccardo Calafiori, while Kumbulla is out through suspension. Plus, as we learned a few days ago, Jordan Veretout will be out at least a month following a thigh injury he suffered in his old stomping grounds in Florence last weekend.
Veretout has been a fixture in Roma’s midfield, and his 11 goals and his boundless energy will be tough to replace, but that’s just what Fonseca will have to do during a busy stretch. Just how the Roma CT does that on a match-to-match basis remains to be seen, but this match against Genoa could give us an indication.
With Veretout out and Bryan Cristante still playing in the rearguard, Fonseca has three healthy midfielders for two spots: Lorenzo Pellegrini, Gonzalo Villar, and Amadou Diawara. If Fonseca wants to keep Pellegrini in the more attacking role he’s played most of the season then we’ll see a Diawara-Villar double pivot. Otherwise, those two could be vying for a place alongside the captain.
“Veretout has been important for us this season, especially going forward. In each game we have a strategy. We have different options to replace Veretout; [Gonzalo] Villar, [Lorenzo] Pellegrini and even [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan can do it. And that can be done without changing what we want to achieve in this game. Tomorrow I will make the decision I think is best for the team.”
Fonseca left things wide open with that comment, but I find it hard to see Diawara going to the bench after his star performance on Wednesday. At the same time, Villar has become a Fonseca favorite. Therefore, I’m leaning toward a Diawara-Villar duo with Pellegrini staying higher up the pitch.
Pellegrini will undoubtedly play in support of Borja Mayoral, while this could be a good chance to get Henrikh Mkhitaryan some rest ahead of Thursday’s Europa League match, which seems to be the plan as Fonseca indicated that Pedro will start. That is unless he drops Pellegrini deep, in which case Mkhitaryan could partner with Pedro.
Meanwhile, the rearguard and the wing-back positions should remain the same, with the back three of Smalling, Cristante, and Gianluca Mancini remaining in tact. That trio will play in front of Pau Lopez. Rounding out the XI will be Rick Karsdorp and Leonardo Spinazzola on the wings.