Roma and Venezia haven't squared off since the spring of 2002, a time when most of Roma's squad was still crawling around in diapers—if they even existed at all. Considering that complete and utter lack of recent history, predicting which Roma players may excel against Europe's most fashion-forward club may seem a bit foolhardy, but we're going to do it anyway.
Besides, after last week's near-total Pick to Click disaster, we have to save a bit of face!
I know, I know. Picking a kid who has spent more time in street clothes than on the pitch is a risky proposition, but in his pre-match press conference, Mourinho spoke highly of Villar's impact on Roma's style of play:
Much has been made of Mourinho's insistence on playing the same dozen players (give or take), but after Villar's strong 45 minute showing against Bodø, perhaps Mourinho will put a bit more faith in the slim Spaniard?
Villar has yet to log a single second in Serie A, but a date with 17th place Venezia is as good a time as any to get Roma's numero ocho some much-needed match time.
After scoring an equalizer against Bodø late in the week, we're riding the hot hand with our next selection. Whether he starts at center-back alongside Gianluca Mancini or is forced to fill in at left-back with Matías Viña and Riccardo Calafiori out injured, Ibañez should have no issues handling the Venezia attack, while he may even surprise us with a few forward runs or near post headers in the box.
Next to Lorenzo Pellegrini, Ibañez is probably Roma's best player right now, and a match like this, where he can dominate defensively and potentially even help pin Venezia back at the other end, could send the young Brazilian into the break on a massive high.
After missing Roma's Conference League match on Thursday due to knee inflammation, Pellegrini seemed poised to return for tomorrow's early afternoon fixture. Roma are better with Pellegrini on the pitch—there's zero doubt about that—and against a bottom-feeding club like Venezia, he could have a field day.
Pellegrini has slowed down a bit since his torrid start (at least in terms of goal contributions), scoring only one goal and providing one assist since the beginning of October, so piling on Venezia's misery tomorrow could get Pellegrini's career year back on track.
Cristante's exact position tomorrow likely depends on what Mourinho does with Ibañez. If Ibañez starts at center-back, with Filippo Tripi playing at left-back, then Cristante should be up to his usual tricks in midfield alongside Jordan Veretout. If, however, Mourinho decides to utilize Ibañez at left-back, then it's back to defense for Cristante. Either way, this match should feature plenty of pinpoint long-balls from Cristante, who is become remarkably adept at bypassing defenses in total, picking out everyone from Nicolo Zaniolo to Tammy Abraham to Henrikh Mkhitaryan with his assembly of gently arching long passes.
Pellegrini, Mourinho, and Abraham have stolen most of the early-season headlines, but Cristante is quietly putting together the best season of his Roma career.
Who is your pick to click against Venezia?
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