Roma is finally back. It feels like an eternity since the Giallorossi whooped on Empoli 4-2 in their last match prior to the international break. The break provided some much-needed R&R for most of the squad as the Giallorossi gear up for a busy stretch.
The Giallorossi return on Saturday against Genoa before traveling to Milan on Tuesday for a Coppa Italia quarterfinal match against Scudetto holders Inter, which is then followed by Sassuolo next Sunday. So, with that in mind, José Mourinho will have to carefully manage some of his personnel to avoid injury and fatigue.
One player who will not be ready for the match against the Grifoni is captain Lorenzo Pellegrini. Despite returning to training this week, Pellegrini just quite isn’t match ready yet according to his manager.
Besides Pellegrini and the rehabbing Leonardo Spinazzola, Mourinho will have his full squad available and is expected to run out his eleven in a 3-4-1-2 formation again, with just a couple of question marks as to who will start.
Considering the way Mourinho organized his side prior to the international break, there are likely two positions up for grabs: left-back and one of the central midfield positions.
With Sergio Oliveira now firmly entrenched in the lineup, it’ll come down to Bryan Cristante and Jordan Veretout to partner him. Mourinho was asked about his midfield and if Pellegrini could be paired with Oliveira and Mkhitaryan in the near future, which would see both Cristante and Veretout on the bench. He responded by saying:
“In Milan we played with Jordan Veretout, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Mkhitaryan in a midfield like that. Sergio, perhaps, is a bit more of a fixed player than Veretout, Veretout can move in different positions. But we have plenty of options there, we have different players with different options.
“If we think about the future and continuing to improve, then it is clear that we need a player with different qualities – a proper deep-lying playmaker is something we don’t have. Right now we have the options we do and we can play in a three with Veretout, with Pellegrini, even with Edoardo Bove who has improved a lot.
“I’m really happy with that because he’s a boy with a lot of talent and maturity about him. He doesn’t seem to be a kid. I’m happy with how he is developing. The squad now is more balanced overall.
“Going back to your question, we can play with three central midfielders there. We can play with two central forwards. Whenever a squad has a chance to work with the same coach for a while, with the same overall tactical philosophy, the players understand the different roles a bit better and the differences between systems. A squad always needs to be ready to play in different shapes depending on the circumstances. So we could play with three in midfield.
“Going back to the very first part of your question, could Lorenzo be available on Tuesday? It’s possible. Yesterday he only joined in with part of training, whereas today he did everything with the rest of the group. He needs to rest, though, because he’s worked really hard to get back to where he is now. But I think it’s possible he could be available on Tuesday.”
His response doesn’t help us in deciding who will play tomorrow, but it does give a sense that he is much happier with his midfield now than prior to Oliveira’s arrival. Meanwhile, at left-back, Matías Viña returns from international duty with Uruguay hoping to get the nod over Roma’s latest arrival Maitland-Niles. When asked if Viña would be rested, Mourinho didn’t tip his hand.
“He hasn’t been back very long, but he didn’t play [during the international break]. At times he’s come back having played three games in 15 days, or even injured. This time he’s come back without playing and he’s come back happy, because his country have qualified for the World Cup. A dream for any player.
“We are now a more balanced side, a side with more options. That’s what we wanted when we went into the transfer market last month. We didn’t get carried away, but we did things in a way that gave us a bit more balance. Now we have Karsdorp and Maitland-Niles as right-back options, and Matias Vina and Maitland-Niles as left-back choices. We are about to go into a week with three games – so everyone will get a chance to play.”
Chiesa Di Totti Probable Lineup
(3-4-1-2): Patricio; Ibañez, Smalling, Mancini; Maitland-Niles, Oliveira, Cristante, Karsdorp; Mkhitaryan; Abraham, Zaniolo