As we’ve discussed plenty since the Napoli loss, Roma is now in dire straits. The Giallorossi must find a way to win as many of their remaining ten league matches as possible to keep their Champions League qualification hopes alive. Meanwhile, they’re the only side in Italy that also has to play mid-week European matches this month, something that is sure to add to the fatigue level of a depleted squad.
And the Giallorossi return from the international break with very little good news on the injury front despite not playing a match for almost two weeks. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Chris Smalling still remain out. Paulo Fonseca commented on both in his pre-match press conference.
“Smalling is getting better, that’s the key thing. We don’t want to take any risks with him. We want him to be back when he is at 100 per cent. And in order for that to be the case he needs a few more days.”
“Micki is training on his own at the moment. He’s doing a lot better, let’s see how he is next week.”
So, while it looks like the light at the end of the injury tunnel is near for both, neither is ready for tomorrow’s match. We’ll see about Ajax come Thursday.
Meanwhile, Roma will also be without Max Kumbulla who was injured on international duty, and Gonzalo Villar and Roger Ibañez who are both suspended.
In a bit of good news, Bryan Cristante who left Italy camp with a slight injury is available, as is Jordan Veretout after a long injury lay-off. It looks like the Italian is ready to start in Smalling’s absence against, but the Frenchman will likely be on the bench.
“The situation with Bryan is under control. He has been following a personalized program. Today he trained with the rest of the team. I think he will be able to play from now until the end of the season without any issues.”
“He’s [Veretout] a lot better. He’s been working on his own over the last few days, and trained with the group a bit today. Next week I think we will have him back at 100 percent.”
With Smalling, Ibañez, and Kumbulla out, Cristante and Gianluca Mancini will need someone to join them in defense. Fonseca seems to have ruled out playing Federico Fazio, suggesting that Spinazzola or Karsdorp could slide back into central defense, as we’ve already seen during the recent injury crisis.
Fonseca also clarified that there is no longer a competition at keeper and that Lopez is his man—at least for tomorrow. Additionally, he wouldn’t tip his hand in terms of who would play the number nine role against Sassuolo or Ajax.
“No. I have made my decision for tomorrow – Pau Lopez will start. After that we’ll have to see.”
“No, I’m just thinking about each game as it comes. I have already chosen who will play tomorrow – then after that we will see who gets the nod against Ajax.”
With all that in mind. here is our projected starting XI for tomorrow against a similarly hampered Sassuolo side that could be without Berardi, Caputo, and Locatelli. Let the war of attrition begin at the Mapei!