Lately, it’s felt like the old expression “when it rains, it pours” was the perfect way to describe Roma’s injury crisis. Player after player went down. And not just depth pieces, but bona fide starters and some of José Mourinho’s most key men.
In some of the most important matches of the season, Mourinho has had to make due without Chris Smalling, Paulo Dybala, and Gini Wijnaldum, amongst others. However, the call-up list for Thursday’s trip to Leverkusen offers just a small glimpse of sunshine ahead of the Giallorossi’s biggest match to this point of the season.
“Dybala, Smalling and El Shaarawy are all available tomorrow,” said Mourinho in his pre-match press conference.
Mourinho didn’t say much more than that when it comes to line-ups, but just having those players available should give the Giallorossi a big boost. None is likely to start given their very limited amount of full squad training of late, but even as options off the bench in limited minutes could make a difference in the outcome of this one.
Without Dybala and Smalling from the opening whistle, though, Mourinho will have to continue to improvise, especially at center-back, where Bryan Cristante is again expected to start. He’ll again be flanked by Gianluca Mancini and Roger Ibañez.
Meanwhile, with Dybala out and Roma ahead on aggregate 1-0, Mourinho is expected to pack the midfield. That’s a change from the first leg when he played the striker tandem of Tammy Abraham and Andrea Belotti. This time, Abraham is expected to be the lone striker with Gini Wijnaldum offering support.
That would see Lorenzo Pellegrini drop deeper in the midfield with Edoardo Bove and Nemaja Matic. Rounding out the XI will be Leonardo Spinazzola and Zeki Çelik, who are expected to start over Nicola Zalewski.
ROMA (3-5-1-1): Patricio; Ibañez, Cristante, Mancini; Spinazzola, Bove, Matic, Pellegrini, Çelik; Wijnaldum; Abraham.