The Giallorossi meet Bayer Leverkusen today at a critical juncture in their season. Win convincingly in this first leg of the Europa League semi-final, and the path to Champions League football for the 2023/2024 becomes that much clearer. Draw or lose this part of the tie, and an already-injured squad is given yet another seemingly insurmountable battle as the season staggers towards its end.
Given the bevy of injuries confronting José Mourinho, there’s no doubt that today’s match features one of the stronger starting elevens that The Special One could put together under the circumstances. While Paulo Dybala and Gini Wijnaldum did not make the starting eleven, the attacking trio of Tammy Abraham, Andrea Belotti, and Lorenzo Pellegrini should be enough offensive firepower to start this one, at least on paper. Dybala and Wijnaldum are on the bench in case of emergency, but reports suggest that in a best-case scenario, Mourinho will be able to avoid playing La Joya in particular in this match, with an eye towards the away leg of this semi-final and other key matches in the remaining Serie A season.
Also of note in this starting eleven? The return of Zeki Celik and with that the shift of Leonardo Spinazzola back to the left side. After Spinazzola’s horrific performance against Inter on Saturday, Romanisti will be hoping that the Italian international can rediscover his form once he’s put back in his normal spot on the field. This match is also a chance for Edoardo Bove to prove himself under the bright lights, as he is paired with Nemanja Matić in the midfield with Bryan Cristante taking over for Chris Smalling in the defense.
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