On Sunday at the Olimpico, José Mourinho pulled out a new wrinkle to get the best of Juventus, running out a starting eleven that didn’t include a striker despite having both Tammy Abraham and Andrea Belotti fully fit. It was something that none of the major publications saw coming, but the 3-7-0 formation, as some are calling it, neutralizing Juve thanks to an overloaded midfield.
Despite its success against the Bianconeri, don’t expect Mourinho to pull the same rabbit out of his hat in Roma’s Europa League fixture against Real Sociedad on Thursday. Against the Spanish side, Mourinho is expected to revert back to his usual 3-4-2-1 formation, bringing Abraham back into the side at the expense of Gini Wijnaldum.
The Special One was asked about his English striker’s performances this season in his pre-match presser:
“There’s only one Abraham I’m interested in and that’s the team player. The team player who was on the bench in our last match against Juventus and celebrated [Gianluca] Mancini’s goal as if he’d scored it himself. That’s the Abraham we need.
“I understand what you’re saying and I realize that he could score more goals and reach the sort of numbers he hit last term, but the most important thing is that he contributes to the team. In the last 15 minutes against Juventus he toiled for the team and gave us what we needed. Tammy is fine and [Andrea] Belotti is fine. Often a striker’s performances are a reflection of the team’s. They didn’t play well against Cremonese because we were poor as a team. Both put in a huge shift for the team against Juventus.
“That’s what I expect from them tomorrow. Not if or how many they score, not them displaying their skills or not, but that they toil for the team. This is a special week for Tammy as the birth of your first child brings immense joy. He really wants to play and if possible score for us but if the two of them work well for the team, that’s all I ask.”
While Abraham will rejoin the XI for this one, Mourinho will lose a key man. Roma will be without the suspended Roger Ibañez, who picked up his third yellow card in seven Europa League matches. Replacing him will be Spaniard Diego Llorente, who arrived from Leeds United during the January window. Llorente will be making his first start against the side that he called his own for three seasons before moving to Leeds. He’ll join Chris Smalling and Gianluca Mancini along Roma’s rearguard.
Sunday’s starting lineup should see Rick Karsdorp replace Nicola Zalewski at right wing-back opposite Leo Spinazzola. They’ll flank Nemanja Matic and Bryan Cristante in central midfield. Meanwhile, Paulo Dybala and Tammy Abraham will support Abraham in the attack.
ROMA (3-4-2-1): Patricio; Llorente, Smalling, Mancini; Spinazzola, Cristante, Matic, Karsdorp; Dybala, Pellegrini; Abraham