The Giallorossi continue to grind through the last few meaningless matches of a disappointing season with an injury-depleted roster, something Paulo Fonseca lamented in his prematch press conference.
“It’s been a difficult season, with a few injuries to some important players. As I’ve said a few times, if we had those players available to us throughout the season then I think we would have finished in a different position.”
However, even with nothing left to play for in the standings, whoever Fonseca puts in his starting XI should have some extra motivation this weekend. That’s because Roma hosts Lazio with a chance to have some bragging rights despite finishing below its city rivals for the second consecutive season. Besides that, José Mourinho will also be watching very closely to see which players have the coglioni in big matches.
This will also be a revenge match for the Giallorossi who were thoroughly embarrassed in the reverse fixture. That’s something that Fonseca acknowledged was a tactical mistake and that the team has worked on correcting this time around.
“We have prepared tactically for this game in a different way to the last meeting. In that game we pressed them high up the pitch, but as a result the team was not particularly well balanced. As a result they were able to hit us on the counter-attack with regularity.
“We have prepared for this game looking at ways we can stop them counter-attacking like that. They are dangerous when they go forward with Immobile, Correa, Luis Alberto, Milinkovic-Savic and their full-backs. We need to pay attention to that.”
Part of that tactical change will see Roma stick with the back-four they've utilized in recent weeks. Fonseca acknowledged that he's always had two tactical setups, but that it wouldn’t make sense to revert back to the three-man defense.
“I have always said that we had two setups for this squad. The choice depended a lot on the response of the team, and it depended on the moment we were in as well. We changed it for the match against Manchester United and the team responded well to that. Changes like that can be good for the team too – to give them a different stimulation, to create new dynamics on the pitch. For that reason it doesn’t make sense to change it again right now.”
Reports indicated that Roma trainers were hoping to have Chris Smalling and Leonardo Spinazzola back in the fold for this one, but it doesn’t look like they’ll win the race against time. So, with those two likely out, it should be Gianluca Mancini and Roger Ibañez in the center of defense. They should be flanked by Rick Karsdorp and Bruno Peres. That quartet will play in front of Daniel Fuzato in goal.
In the midfield, we’ll likely see Bryan Cristante paired with Gonzalo Villar in the double pivot. Although there is a slight chance we could see Ebrima Darboe in place of Villar.
Moving into the attack, it’ll be Lorenzo Pellegrini, Stephan El Shaarawy, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan playing in support of the lone striker. Some other publications are currently tipping Edin Dzeko to start, but my gut tells me Fonseca will go with Mayoral after the Bosnian played on Wednesday.