With Diego Llorente joining Chris Smalling and Max Kumbulla on the injured list, José Mourinho will have a big decision to make. Roma has mostly played a three-man backline during Mourinho’s tenure. However, with three of his five center backs sidelined, Mourinho must move a non-natural center back to the backline or adjust formations.
And based on what he said, switching formations doesn’t seem to be an option right now because of the lack of attacking wingers. When asked, here’s what he had to say during his pre-match press conference.
“You’re asking me what we’ll do tomorrow. Later, I might get asked if we’ll play three or four at the back, which would be a normal question. To defend with four, [Primavera player] Joao Costa has to play tomorrow. And he’ll be in the matchday squad. I won’t tell you whether we’ll play with four, but the only way we could do it would be with [Stephan] El Shaarawy on the left and Joao Costa on the right. Because if anyone says that [Paulo] Dybala can play right wing in system with four, I’ll remind you that people are saying he looked very tired in the last two games – and that was playing in the middle, so you can imagine on the wing...”
That quote is either Mourinho being very coy or frank about Roma’s current personnel situation. Based on his initial adjustment last match when Llorente went down injured, it seems like sticking with an improvised back three is the more likely option.
If that happens, Mourinho will likely deploy either Bryan Cristante in the middle of the back three or Zeki Celik on the right, along with Gianluca Mancini and Evan Ndicka. Cristante is the more likely option, but in dropping him into defense, the Giallorossi would lose the Italian in the midfield, where he’s already provided two goals and two assists in the league.
With Cristante dropping into defense and Renato Sanches still out injured, Mourinho’s options become a bit more limited in the midfield. Leandro Paredes and Lorenzo Pellegrini will definitely start—most likely with Houssem Aouar as the third midfielder in a 3-5-2. However, Edoardo Bove could slot in with Pellegrini and Paredes. Leo Spinazzola and Rasmus Kristensen will play wing-back, while Paulo Dybala and Romelu Lukaku round out the starting eleven in attack.
ROMA (3-5-2): Patricio; Ndicka, Cristante, Mancini; Spinazzola, Aouar, Paredes, Pellegrini, Kristensen; Dybala, Lukaku.