José Mourinho has had to deal with injuries across his roster throughout the autumn, especially in the midfield. But, as the calendar turned to December, we started to see the returns of some key players to the pitch from the Giallorossi, including Lorenzo Pellegrini and Renato Sanches. Now, though, Mourinho has those two players and the rest of his midfield options available to start.
“We need everyone. As I’ve said before, when we have a full squad available, with no injuries, and all our players in good shape, we have a strong squad. It’s a squad with options that helps me help the team during the game, if I have options on the bench.
“The fact is that we do options in midfield. That includes [Edoardo] Bove, who’s no longer a kid who comes on for 10, 15 minutes, as he did two years ago and last year. He’s grown since then. In midfield we have options even without Renato, Lorenzo and with [Leo] Paredes suspended, so it’s not a disaster because we can always come up with solutions.
“Having said that, having all of our midfielders available is important. Tomorrow, for example, we have Paredes, Renato, [Bryan] Cristante, Bove, Pellegrini and [Houssem] Aouar:. We have six players available and that’s an excellent number.
“Renato has improved in the last week, but he hasn’t been working at full capacity. He’s not quite at full intensity yet.
“Lorenzo has had a great week and has even done some extra work. With that group of players, we’re sorted.”
“However, we do have lots of important games. In January we have a cup match and then potentially another one, if we win the first. We need all the players because we’ve obviously had difficulties at the back and we’ll continue to have them in the coming weeks. With [Evan] Ndicka going away, it’s going to be even more difficult.”
Mourinho didn’t indicate who would start, but it looks like Bryan Cristante and Leandro Paredes will remain fixtures in the center of the park. Meanwhile, most publications are favoring Lorenzo Pellegrini over Edoardo Bove. However, don’t be shocked if Bove gets the nod.
Mourinho also gave some updates on some of his other injured players. The only absences for this one will be Max Kumbulla and Tammy Abraham, who continue to work their way back from ACL tears, and Chris Smalling, who has remained out longer than initially anticipated with knee tendinitis. The news on Kumbulla was good, but not so much on Smalling.
“[Chris] Smalling won’t be involved – there’s been no progress there. [Marash] Kumbulla is making progress. He’s started training with the squad again, although not fully yet. If all goes well, I’m not saying he’ll be 100% but perhaps he can help for 10-15 minutes, against Napoli or for our first game in January. Marash is working really well. Tammy [Abraham] is unavailable.”
With that in mind, the defense will continue to be formed as it has been for some time with Gianluca Mancini, Evan Ndicka, and Diego Llorente. And unsurprisingly, the attack will consist of in-form duo Paulo Dybala and Romelu Lukaku.
That leaves the only question mark on the wings besides one midfield spot. After playing hero last weekend, Rasmus Kristensen is favored over Rick Karsdorp. Meanwhile, it seems likely that Leo Spinazzola plays ahead of Nicola Zalewski.
ROMA (3-5-2): Patricio; Ndicka, Llorente, Mancini; Spinazzola, Paredes, Cristante, Pellegrini, Kristensen; Dybala, Lukaku.