In terms of roster availability, Roma and Milan are two clubs trending in opposite directions. The Giallorossi are nearing full health with the returns of Lorenzo Pellegrini and Stephan El Shaarawy from injuries, while only Leonardo Spinazzola remains ruled out, though he is nearing a return from an extended absence after tearing his Achilles last summer.
Roma will, however, be without reserves Daniel Fuzato and Borja Mayoral and one unnamed played due to COVID, while Ebrima Darboe and Amadou Diawara are on international duty at the African Cup of Nations.
In a bit of good news, Mourinho confirmed that Rui Patricio was ready to start in goal, despite some missed training this week. That’s especially important with Fuzato out.
“Rui Patricio can play. He didn’t train yesterday, or the day before that, because of a back problem. But he trained today. Tomorrow he’s able to play. We don’t have Daniel Fuzato [due to Covid]. We have Pietro Boer and Davide Mastrantonio as the back-up and third options.
“The players had a week off but then a week of work too. We’ve put in some good work. It’s 15 days without a game and that always affects your intensity levels and match sharpness a little bit. But we are doing okay. The only player that is really still recovering from an injury is Leonardo Spinazzola.
“Other than a few problems you all know about, a few Covid issues, we are prepared.”
Milan on the other hand has a laundry list of absences to deal with when Roma arrives at the San Siro on Thursday. To begin, Simone Kjær is out for the season and key midfielders Franck Kessie and Ismael Bennacer are away at AFCON. Meanwhile, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Rafael Leao, and Davide Calabria are just returning from injury and unlikely to start. And on top of that, three yet-to-be-named players tested positive for COVID late on Wednesday. Depending on who those three are, the Rossoneri could be fielding a mostly second-team squad.
In all probability, that last little bit of news will keep Milan’s XI a mystery until match time. However, Roma’s lineup will be mostly set, though there is one question mark revolving around whether Pellegrini will start in his first match back; something Mourinho noted is a possibility, even if he’s not ready for 90 minutes.
“Pellegrini has recovered. And that is down to him, to Carlos Lalin and a few of the other physiotherapists – because he didn’t have a holiday like some of the others. He took four days fewer. And then he went hard in those four days. Since we have been back he’s been fine, no problems. So he can play, yes. Can he go the full 90 minutes? I don’t think so. Especially as we have another game coming up Sunday. But I think he could start the game without any real issues.”
If Mourinho starts Pellegrini then one of Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Bryan Cristante likely becomes the player who gives way. I think the captain starts and likely gets 60 or so minutes under his belt before Juve on Sunday. So, we’ll go with this Roma projected XI.
Roma (3-5-2): Patricio; Ibañez, Smalling, Mancini; Viña, Pellegrini, Cristante, Veretout, Karsdorp; Zaniolo, Abraham