Last weekend at the Olimpico, with Gianluca Mancini, Roger Ibañez, and Max Kumbulla all suspended, José Mourinho started just two center-backs in a back four for the first time this season. It’s something that many tifosi had wanted to see all season, and thanks to necessity, Mourinho decided to give it a whirl rather than play a full-back as a third center-back. And it worked out well for the Giallorossi in a 3-0 victory at the Olimpico.
The offense flowed pretty well, and the center-back pairing of Chris Smalling and Deigo Llorente more than held up to the Blucerchiati attack. However, this week, Mourinho finds himself with five fit and available center backs. So, will Mourinho stick with last week’s winning formula or go back to the tried and true back three that has given up the fourth fewest goals in Serie A?
Considering that last weekend’s formation switch was forced, it seems likely that Roma returns to their bread and butter, the 3-4-2-1. The Smalling, Mancini, Ibañez trio has performed well and it’s unlikely Mourinho moves away from it when all are fit and available. Plus, the latter two have tended to be better fits in a back three than a back four for most of their careers—unlike last weekend’s Llorente/Smalling pairing.
If Mourinho does go in this direction, then two positions come into question: central midfield and striker. Last weekend, with Bryan Cristante also suspended, Nemanja Matic and Georginio Wijnaldum played well, with the Dutchman scoring and drawing a penalty. It’s unlikely Cristante sits again, so it’ll come down to Matic or Wijnaldum for the second starting spot. I’m going to tip Gini after his strong performance. That also allows the older Matic some rest before a busy stretch.
Meanwhile, with Tammy Abraham struggling to find his goalscoring form, it’s hard to envision the Englishman starting again. I think Mourinho goes will Andrea Belotti in his old stomping grounds of the Stadio Olimpico Torino. What better way for Belotti to score his first league goal of the season than by doing it in front of his old supporters and doing the classic hands up I can’t celebrate?
ROMA (3-4-2-1): Patricio; Ibañez, Smalling, Mancini; Spinazzola, Cristante, Wijnaldum, Zalewski; Pellergini, Dybala; Belotti