AS Roma will look to close the gap on second-placed AC Milan, as they host the Rossoneri at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.
Roma cruised past Braga in the Europa League on Thursday with a 5-1 victory over the Portuguese side on aggregate. This result comes after a disappointing draw in the weekend game against ten-man Benevento.
The Giallorossi are still within an outside chance of winning the Serie A this season and are currently fourth-placed in the league, nine points behind league leaders Inter Milan. In order to challenge for the title, Paulo Fonseca’s men will have to improve their league form. With only one win in their last three games, the home team will look to find their winning formula back with a win against AC Milan on Sunday night.
Roma missed out on UEFA Champions League qualification last year by eight points, but this year Fonseca’s men have shown a significant improvement in their league performances and look sure to secure a berth in the biggest competition in Europe.
Meanwhile, after a string of disappointing performance in recent weeks, AC Milan finally had a positive result on Thursday, as they qualified for the UEFA Europa League round of 16, albeit on an away goal rule after their 1-1 draw against Crvena Zvezda. Milan hit a road bump in their title race last weekend after being battered by arch-rivals and league leaders Inter Milan in a 3-0 embarrassment.
The Rossoneri are winless in their last four games in all competition and with the race for the Serie A crown heating up, their poor form will be a worry for the San Siro faithful. Stefano Pioli will try to inspire his squad to find their excellent form of last year back again in order to rejuvenate their title challenge.
It was a thrilling 3-3 draw at the San Siro in the reverse fixture between Milan and Roma. Ahead of this enticing Serie A game, let us look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) February 26, 2021
Paulo Fonseca has been hit with an injury-stricken squad, with a lot of first-team players out of action. Key defenders Chris Smalling, Roger Ibanez, Marash Kumbulla and Davide Santon are all recovering from their injuries.
Edin Dzeko will also be a doubt for this game after picking up a knock against Braga. However, Fonseca was boosted by the return of Stephan El Shaarawy against Braga, who looks likely to feature again on Sunday
Pau Lopez will be the custodian for the night, with Federico Fazio, Bryan Cristante and Gianluca Mancini forming the backline. Rick Karsdorp and Leonardo Spinazzola will feature as the wing-backs. Lorenzo Pellegrini will partner Frenchman Jordan Veretout in midfield. El Shaarway, Borja Mayoral and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will form the Giallorossi’s attack.
Fonseca switch from a 4-2-3-1 last season to a 3-4-2-1 this term has given his side more balance and led to better performances in the league. This system provides a strong platform for the wing-backs in attack, with both Spinazzola and Karsdorp expected to provide attacking options from the wide areas.
Veretout’s box-to-box and goalscoring prowess has been a key factor for Roma this season and his link-up with Mkhitaryan and Pellegrini will be vital against Milan. Mayoral will be the target man for the Giallorossi.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Lopez; Fazio, Cristante, Mancini; Karsdorp, Pellegrini, Veretout, Spinazzola; El Shaarawy, Mkhitaryan; Mayoral
Stefano Pioli will be delighted to have most of his squad available for selection on Sunday with only Brahim Diaz, Ismael Bennacer and Mario Mandzukic nursing injuries and likely to be unavailable. The manager made six changes against Crvena Zvezda, in order to keep his key players fresh for this crucial fixture.
— AC Milan (@acmilan) February 26, 2021
Gianluigi Donnarumma will start in goal. Davide Calabria and Alessio Romagnoli will retain their position from the Europa League game and they will be joined by veteran Simon Kjaer and Theo Hernandez in defence.
Sandro Tonali is expected to partner Franck Kessie in centre-midfield, with Hakan Calhanoglu taking over the creative role. Upfront, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will return to the lineup and the Swede will be supported by Alexis Saelemaekers and Rafael Leao in attack.
In Pioli’s 4-2-3-1 system, we can expect Calabria and Hernandez to showcase their attacking qualities in the opposition half, with Tonali expected to set the tone in midfield and Ibrahimovic linking up with Calhanoglu, Leao and Saelemaekers in attack.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Tonali, Kessie; Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Leao; Ibrahimovic
- AS Roma have lost only once in their last 8 games at home against AC Milan (P8 W4 D3 L1).
- The Rossoneri are winless in their last 4 games in all competitions. (P4 W0 L2 D2).
- Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been in fine form this season with 9 goals and assists apiece to his name in Serie A.
- Milan have not lost a single game in this season in which Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored.
- The Giallorossi are yet to be beaten at the Stadio Olimpico this season. (P12 W9 D3 L0)
Player to Watch
Jordan Veretout has been Roma’s unsung hero this season. His box-to-box expertise and the ability to score from centre-midfield has been one of the key ingredients of Roma’s successful season in Serie A.
With nine goals and two assists in the league, the Frenchman has provided his team with an attacking option from midfield. Along with his goalscoring prowess, the Roma man is equally adept at defending and providing cross-field passes. Veretout’s all-round ability in midfield makes him a constant thorn in the side for opposition defences.
The Giallorossi will hope the Frenchman continues to put in top-class displays for the team and help in their pursuit of the Serie A crown this season.
AS Roma 2-1 AC Milan
AC Milan have won only once in their last eight trips away to Roma, with a 2-0 victory in the 2017-18 season. Given their current form in recent games, the Rossoneri will have their work cut out to get a result against an in-form Giallorossi attack.
Roma have shown incredible form at the Stadio Olimpico this season as Paulo Fonseca’s men are yet to face a defeat at home. Despite an injury crisis in their defence, the Giallorossi should have enough attacking prowess to take on the currently struggling Milan side. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for the home side.