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Probable Formations: Roma vs Cagliari

With a large number of absences, we could see another Giallorossi debut from the opening whistle.

AS Roma Training Session Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Jose Mourinho heaped plenty of praise on his newest signing, Sergio Oliveira, in his pre-match press conference. And the Portuguese veteran may have arrived just in the nick of time considering the Giallorossi’s recent results and the large number of potential absences for Sunday’s match at the Olimpico.

“In terms of your first question, let me just say that I never thought it would be possible to get a player like Sergio on loan. His was not a name I had brought up, because I know what are parameters are for the January transfer window and I know what Sergio is worth and, given he was with Porto who are fighting for the league and the Europa League, I did not think it would be possible. So when Tiago Pinto told me that the deal was possible, obviously I immediately said yes. But not just because he is, as you like to say in Italy, a ‘regista’ or because he is a central midfielder that could improve a lot of teams from an organisational standpoint. That’s not what Sergio is.

“Sergio is a different sort of player, he’s a player with the sort of character and know-how that we need. He’s come through the ranks at a club where I know the mentality really, really well and I immediately felt that with that character and the way he is out on the pitch he could be a valuable player for us.

“Beyond that, he is a multi-functional player – he can arrive late into the box, he can shoot from distance, he’s got plenty of experience and he will improve our squad. With the transfer approach we have, we are trying to improve the group step-by-step and improve the amount of options we have. That’s why I think the window has been positive for us: we’ve picked up two players early on, considering the window closes on January 31, and that means Tiago Pinto deserves credit. We’ve picked up two players who really improve our options.

“For seven months we’ve been playing with just one right-back. Whenever Rick Karsdorp had an issue it was a big problem for us. Now, with Maitland-Niles, if Karsdorp isn’t available like he wasn’t against Juventus then it isn’t an issue for us. Maitland-Niles can also play left-back, he can also help out in a midfield three. Sergio, meanwhile, in every formation can play every midfield position – he’s not a regista, who can sit in front of the defence, but everything else he can do. So given the limits we are working within it’s great to improve our options a little bit.

Oliveira should be thrust right into the starting eleven due to the suspension of Bryan Cristante for yellow card accumulation. In addition to Cristante, Roger Ibañez is also suspended for the match. The suspensions aren’t the only issue that could force changes to Roma’s line either.

Mourinho could have a few key absences in other positions as well. He wouldn’t confirm the status of Rick Karsdorp, Chris Smalling, or Stephan El Shaarawy, but initial indications as to their availability seem bleak.

“You already know the players that are suspended. Beyond that we will have to see when it comes to Stephan El Shaarawy, Chris Smalling and Rick Karsdorp – they haven’t trained with the team this week, so we will see what happens today.”

Due to the potential absences of Smalling, Ibañez, and Cristante, a move to a back four seems likely. Gianluca Mancini and Max Kumbulla would center the defense with Ainsley Maitland-Niles getting a second consecutive start.

We expect Roma to line up as follows:

ROMA (4-2-3-1): Patricio; Vina, Kumbulla, Mancini, Maitland-Niles; Veretout, Sergio; Mkhitaryan, Pellegrini, Zaniolo; Abraham.