One of the biggest reasons for the enthusiasm surrounding Roma as the new season kicks off is the amount of talent that Tiago Pinto added to the club this summer. With the additions of Paulo Dybala, Nemanja Matic, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Zeki Celik, José Mourinho has plenty of shiny new toys at his disposal. Better still, he didn't have to bid farewell to any of his regulars from last season to acquire them—pretty shrewd business from Pinto.
What does that all mean? Mourinho has the quality depth needed to have plenty of options around the pitch when constructing his starting XI on a match-to-match basis. He highlighted that in his first pre-match press conference of the season.
Mourinho: “Last season we played with three at the back because that is the system that best suited the players we have. This season new players have arrived and that brings with it the option to play in a four - but we will still need to work on that.”
“I hope this season we can be a team capable of playing both ways: seeing out games where we need to, and better than we did on occasions last season, but also a team capable of understanding its quality and taking control of games.”
That quote makes clear that the three-man backline is no longer a certainty for the Giallorossi every match—apart from general squad rotation. However, for the time being, Roma should stick with that set up.
With that in mind, the backline in front of Rui Patricio isn't really up for debate, as the trio of Gianluca Mancini, Chris Smalling, and Roger Ibanez will get the nod from right to left. Meanwhile, Rick Karsdorp looks set to start at right wing-back. There is some debate about whether Leonardo Spinazzola or Nicola Zalewski will start opposite the Dutchman. Considering Zalewski didn't feature in the last friendly due to an ankle sprain suffered against Spurs, I'll lean towards Spinazzola.
Even though we saw it in the previous two friendlies and will likely see it again against Salernitana, there has been chatter among the fanbase whether or not the "Fab Four" of Lorenzo Pellegrini, Paulo Dybala, Nicolo Zaniolo, and Tammy Abraham could or should all start with Roma playing in a 3-4-2-1 formation.
We say should simply because Pellegrini shone in the attacking midfield role last season. If Dybala and Zaniolo start, Pellegrini will be in a deeper midfielder role in the double pivot. In this scenario, the more defensive Matic is favored to start alongside Roma's captain ahead of Bryan Cristante. That means the other big summer signing, Wijnaldum, will start this one from the bench as well.
ROMA (3-4-2-1): Patricio; Mancini, Smalling, Ibanez; Karsdorp, Matic, Pellegrini, Spinazzola; Zaniolo, Dybala; Abraham