Roma Travel To Austria Vienna With Defensive Injury Crisis And Without Francesco Totti

Il Corriere dello Sport (Roberto Maida) They were hoping for Francesco Totti, but they’ll get Riccardo Marchizza. The Austrian fans will be disappointed by this major absence, as Totti is suffering from a muscle problem he hasn’t quite been able to shake off, but they may also be preparing to see a completely new Roma side, full of the club’s excellent youngsters – freshly crowned Supercoppa champions – as their first team ravaged by injuries.

Spalletti was only able to call up 16 first team players for his squad given that, apart from Totti, Emerson Palmieri has also been sidelined with a muscular problem: he came off in the second half at Empoli and was diagnosed with an injury to his left calf. It is a shame for Emerson as he had finally started performing to a good standard, and he will now only be available for selection again after the international break. As such there will be 7 players absent at 6pm tomorrow when Roma play Austria Vienna: Totti, Emerson, Florenzi (who started his recovery programme at Trigoria yesterday), Vermaelen, Mario Rui, Manolas and Seck.

In the absence of having any alternative, Spalletti seems inclined to play Antonio Rudiger, whose return on Sunday was promising after nearly 5 months of complete inactivity. It’s likely to be he who plays alongside Fazio, a rock in central defence for the last 5 games in a row, in central defence, with Juan Jesus on the left and Bruno Peres attacking down the right to complete the 3.5 man defence. In the second half, if the situation allows it, the youngster Marchizza, a left footed centre back from the Primavera, could make his debut. There is also a young right back, Eros De Santis, who is the Primavera’s captain, in the squad, together with goalkeeper Lorenzo Crisanto. All 3, evidently, won’t be able to play in the UEFA Youth League against Cork. Alisson will obviously replace Szczesny in their usual rotation between competitions.

There are a few more options in the midfield, and the most likely central midfielder to end up on the bench is Daniele De Rossi, who is yet to make his Europa League season debut after his suspension, but he may need to be rested given that he has played 3 times in 8 days. If so, then Strootman should start the game with Nainggolan and Paredes, who is one yellow away from a suspension but aiming to maintain his curious record: he is the player who has had the most touches of the ball in the entire tournament (401, 74 more than second-placed Pogba). Meanwhile Gerson, who was in the starting line-up for the first meeting between the teams, is more likely to play in the second half when the teams are more tired.

And up front? Despite Totti’s absence, there are a number of options. A lot will depend on the fitness of Diego Perotti, who is just coming back from injury himself. If he’s OK, he will play from the start. Iturbe has always started in the Europa League, so in order of likelihood the last place will be filled by El Shaarawy, Salah or Dzeko. Spalletti isn’t opposed to having a lightweight front 3, and dropping El Shaarawy after his brace in the first game would be surprising.

The team will leave from Fiumicino today, and will train at 6.30pm at the Ernst Happel Stadium. They will then leave for their hotel, which is very close to the ground itself. Their return to Italy is scheduled for tomorrow evening, straight after the game.

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