The Giallorossi have finally started to hit their stride and now have won four on the trot after some late Stephan El Shaarawy heroics secured all three points against Monza on Sunday. That win pushed Mourinho’s Roma closer to the coveted top four. But, before Roma can look to pull a big upset at the San Siro against Inter Milan, it must turn its attention back to the Europa League.
With that in mind, let’s look at what to watch for ahead of Thursday’s Europa League group stage match against Slavia Praha.
Keep An Eye On
Top of the Group Clash
In this match, Roma faces off against joint group leaders Slavia Praha. Praha has won both of their matches against Servette and Sheriff by a clean sheet while scoring eight goals in the process. And while Roma will be a different proposition for the Czech side, Slavia also looks like they will be the toughest team the Giallorossi will face in this group stage. And with this one being at the Stadio Olimpico, anything other than a win could certainly put Roma’s chances of winning the group on shaky footing.
In his pre-match presser, Jose Mourinho gave his take on the Czech side:
“I’ve seen many Slavia Prague matches. I’ve seen two versions: one that plays against Sparta Prague and the other that plays against everyone else. The two are completely different in terms of style of play and philosophy. Which Slavia will we see tomorrow? Will it be the one that faced Sparta or the other one? We’re ready for either because both have done well, albeit in completely different ways.
“They’re very well set up defensively with a clear game plan, quality players and confident defenders who want to build from the back. When Slavia faced Sparta, they played a more direct brand of football, with less playing out from the back, less possession and more first and second balls into the opposition half. There are two Slavias but they are both well drilled.
“They are well prepared because they have good players and a coach who is also good, although I don’t know him personally.”
With Mourinho’s description in mind, Roma must be patient in its build-up against what has proven to be a stout defensive side. That’s a task that becomes just a bit more challenging without the creativity of Paulo Dybala. So, it’ll be interesting to see how Roma chooses to try and attack Slavia’s backline.
Who’s In? Who’s Out?
With Roma seemingly perpetually dealing with an injury crisis, Mourinho will have to construct his starting XI from limited options, and there will be little rest for the weary with Inter looming on Sunday. Roma will certainly be without Dybala, Lorenzo Pellegrini, and Renato Sanches for this one through injury. Rasmus Kristensen and Sadar Aazmoun weren’t included on the UEFA list.
There was some hope that Chris Smalling would be available off the bench to prep for a possible Sunday start. But Mourinho poured cold water on that proposition.
“As for Smalling, there’s no plan at the moment. As you saw in open training, he just warmed up, did some rondos and that was it. There’s no plan.”
On the other hand, there was good news on Evan Ndicka, who left Sunday’s match early. And while he may not be 100%, he will be fit enough to start against Praha.
“Ndicka will play tomorrow, as he’s recovered. We don’t have enough defensive options to rotate. He simply has to play.”
Mourinho didn’t comment on any other personnel decisions besides confirming the no-brainer of Romelu Lukaku leading the line. However, the confirmation of Ndicka means that we’ll likely see Bryan Cristante return to the midfield, and he’ll be joined by two of Edoardo Bove, Houssem Aouar, and Leandro Paredes.
Plus, with Mile Svilar joining Mourinho at the presser, it’s all but confirmed that he’ll be between the pipes for another Europa League match. The other positions where there could be some debate about who starts are right wing-back (Zeki Çelik or Rick Karsdorp) and second striker (Andrea Belotti or El Shaarawy).
ROMA (3-5-2): Svilar; Ndicka, Llorente, Mancini; Zalewski, Aouar, Cristante, Bove, Çelik; El Shaarawy, Lukaku.