On Thursday in Roma’s Conference League match, we saw the turnover that many Romanisti were hoping would come in order to avoid overtaxing the legs of some of the Giallorossi’s key men. In that match, Mourinho only stuck with Rui Patricio, Gianluca Mancini, Lorenzo Pellegrini, and Rick Karsdorp from his assumed preferred XI. And of that group, only Mancini and Patricio went the distance. With most of the usual XI getting much, if not all, of the match against CSKA Sofia off, Mourinho should return to what has been the norm thus far.
Nevertheless, Mourinho may be forced into some changes from last weekend’s starting XI due to some fitness concerns. Only Leonardo Spinazzola is officially out due to injury. However, Matías Viña is said to be dealing with a knee contusion and Henrikh Mkhitaryan has muscle fatigue. So, while the duo will likely be available, it’s more likely that they start the match from the bench.
If Mkhitaryan isn’t fit enough to start then that should mean a start for either Stephan El Shaarawy or Eldor Shomurodov. And Viña’s absence would mean another start for Riccardo Calafiori since Mourinho seemed to shoot down the idea of Roger Ibanez being a left-back candidate.
“As for Ibanez, he’s not a full-back and that is very clear. He’s not a full-back that can push high up the pitch, that can put crosses into the middle. He can play in that role in an emergency, but he’ll never be a full-back.”
Mourinho was also asked if he would consider a three-man defense or reintegrating someone like Davide Santon to help with the injuries at full-back. Mourinho shot down both ideas and instead confirmed that youngster Filippo Trippi would be traveling with the team in the event that another fullback was needed in a pinch.
“No, I thought about Filippo Tripi, who will be travelling with us. If we have any issues tomorrow, then Tripi completed pre-season with us, he’s worked for us for more than a month and he’s learned how we approach games. He’s a smart boy that can cover a number of roles across the defence. Even in midfield, if we need that too. He doesn’t have much experience, but he’s a big Roma fan and he is smart as a player.
“I haven’t thought about reintegrating anyone. We can play with three at the back or with four. We haven’t played with three so far, but I cannot say that it’s something that will never happen. It’s a possibility. There are a lot of teams that play with three at the back and it can happen that the best way to combat that is to play with three at the back yourself.”
So, with that in mind, it’s safe to say that we should see what has been the standard 4-2-3-1 again tomorrow. In the back, it’ll be Patricio in goal. In front of him will be the four-man defense of Calafiori, Ibañez, Mancini, and Karsdorp.
The midfield double pivot will again be Jordan Veretout and Bryan Cristante who appeared as substitutes on Thursday. It was after their introduction—in the final 30 minutes against CSKA Sofia—that Roma really took off, leading Mourinho to praise the pair while also explaining why Gonzalo Villar is having trouble getting minutes.
“There’s no issue with Villar. If anything, his problem is that Jordan Veretout and Bryan Cristante are both playing really well. But that’s not a bad thing, that’s a really good thing for the team as a whole.”
In the attack, Tammy Abraham will lead the line. In support of him will be Nicolo Zaniolo, Lorenzo Pellegrini and one of Mkhi, El Shaarawy, or Shomurodov. We’ll tip Il Faraone, who’s been the hot hand, for the last spot in the attacking midfield.