Today’s first leg of the Europa League Round of 16 is a critical match for the Giallorossi. José Mourinho and his men have turned the Stadio Olimpico into a fortress this season, conceding only five goals in league play there; they’ll need to bring that energy to today’s match against Real Sociedad, as it will be critical to at least bring a first leg clean sheet into the second tie in San Sebastián.
Mourinho was a little coy in his pre-match presser, suggesting he might change his tactics to feature two center backs and two forwards (to utilize Tammy Abraham and Andrea Belotti simultaneously), but instead we’re seeing much of Roma’s typical starting eleven in this evening’s match. The biggest changes are the addition of new signing Diego Llorente to the defense alongside Gianluca Mancini and Chris Smalling, and starting opportunities on the wings for Stephan El Shaarawy and Rick Karsdorp.
The absence of Marash Kumbulla and Nicola Zalewski from the starting eleven is curious to me, but I guess Kumbulla has fallen behind Llorente in the pecking order at center back. Zalewski, meanwhile, got bossed in Roma’s most recent match against Juventus, so it’s not entirely surprising that he’s out of the starting eleven today. We’ll see how long Karsdorp and El Sha are able to stay on the pitch; my best guess is that we’ll see at least one of Zalewski, Spinazzola, and Andrea Belotti as a sub before the hour mark of the match.
As always, follow along with us here and on Twitter, and Forza Roma!