Prior to the international break, José Mourinho saw midfielders Renato Sanches and Houssem Aouar go down with injuries, and so, too, did talisman Paulo Dybala. Then at the onset of the break, captain Lorenzo Pellegrini was sent home from Italy camp with his own injury. That was before Gianluca Mancini exited the Azzurri’s 1-1 draw with North Macedonia with yet another muscular injury.
However, the time off for the injured players seems to have done most of the squad well. In a bit of good news, Sanches and Aouar were able to recuperate over the week without a match. As was Dybala. And Mancini will also be available—something Mourinho praised Luciano Spalletti for.
“As for Mancini, let me start by thanking [Luciano] Spalletti, who coached at club level for many years and obviously has the good sense to send home a player who is injured and can’t play the second game with the national team. He did that with Mancini, with Pellegrini, and I think with players from other clubs. That level of sensitivity is much appreciated by those of us coaching clubs. Having him as the manager of the national team is a good thing for us coaches.”
However, Pellegrini will be unavailable, as will veteran center-back Chris Smalling. Smalling was ruled out by Mourinho in his pre-match presser.
“Sadly I don’t think he’ll [Smalling] be available for selection tomorrow. We’ll see how training goes today. He might be able to make the bench and help out if we need him but there’s a strong possibility he won’t even make the squad.”
With Smalling out, Mourinho and Roma were fortunate to get Mancini back healthy enough to play. Joining him along the back three will be Diego Smalling and Evan Ndicka, who will make his Roma debut.
From the looks of things, Bryan Cristante and Edoardo Bove will start in the central midfield, with Aouar and Leandro Paredes vying for the last starting spot. At the moment, it looks like the Aouar has the edge over the Argentine to round things out in the center of the park.
Meanwhile, Leonardo Spinazzola and Rasmus Kristensen appear likely to start out on the wings. Lastly, Mourinho revealed that both Romelu Lukaku and Paulo Dybala will lead the attack.
“After these two international matches, Romelu has come back looking very, very good. Obviously he’ll start tomorrow and it would be no surprise if he played 90 minutes.
“Dybala will play. It’s not empirical but scientific: we have data which says it will be hard for him to play 90 minutes. Very hard in terms of intensity and energy recovery. But from a clinical point of view, he’s ‘clean’. He’s ok and he wants to play. He feels confident. Lukaku will play and Dybala will play.”
ROMA (3-5-2): Patricio; Ndicka, Llorente, Mancini; Spinazzola, Bove, Cristante, Aouar, Kristensen; Lukaku, Dybala.