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Preview: Roma vs. Spezia - prediction, team news, lineups
13/12/2021 14:29:43

Despite topping their group to progress in Europe, Roma have struggled in Serie A of late, so will be under pressure to beat lowly Spezia when the two clubs meet on Monday.

A run of four losses from their last six domestic games has seen the Giallorossi slip outside of the European places, while their visitors have lost three of their last four to sit just above the drop zone.

We say: Roma 2-1 Spezia

While often caught short by clubs competing at the top of the standings, Roma are usually efficient against the league's minnows - particularly on home soil.

The smart money is on Rome-born Verde to continue his scoring run against his childhood club, but Spezia cannot keep the back door shut for long enough to capitalise in Rome.

Match preview

Victory over CSKA Sofia in their final group game of the inaugural Europa Conference League has secured Roma's place in continental competition for after the winter break, but their midweek win in Bulgaria cannot cover for a disappointing spell domestically.

Bagging a brace from his only two shots on goal, Tammy Abraham played an instrumental role in the 3-2 success - which secures a place in the last 16 - but his six goals in Europe's third tier competition have contrasted with just four from 15 appearances on Serie A duty.

The Englishman's latest league blank came against Inter last weekend, as Jose Mourinho's former club cruised to a 3-0 victory at Stadio Olimpico - with the second goal coming as a bitter blow from the boot of former Roma captain Edin Dzeko.

That followed another failure from the club's attacking department at Bologna just days before, when they suffered a 12th away defeat of 2021. Having already lost a total of seven league fixtures this season, only three times in their long top-flight history have they suffered more defeats at this stage.

Set to face fellow top-four contenders Atalanta next weekend, the need for three points is therefore all the more acute on Monday, as Mourinho seeks to keep his side in the race for a Champions League return.

Only their upcoming opponents from Bergamo and Scudetto-chasing Napoli have earned more points than Roma in games against sides from the bottom half of the standings this season, so beating one of the division's lowest-ranked sides should not be too much to ask.

One of Serie A's leakiest defences shipped more goals last week, as Spezia gave up a two-goal lead to be held 2-2 by Sassuolo at Stadio Alberto Picco.

Despite goals from Rey Manaj and Emmanuel Gyasi either side of the break, a late Giacomo Raspadori double wiped out the Aquilotti's advantage, and they had to settle for just a solitary point.

Having suffered a 10th league loss of the 2021-22 campaign only a few days before, Spezia remain mired in what is likely to be a season-long battle against the drop, having survived against the odds last season in their debut at the elite level.

Furthermore, the Ligurians have lost their last five away games on the bounce ahead of the trip to Rome, and no side had lost more points from leading positions before Serie A's 17th round commenced.

Spezia's visit to the Olimpico will be the first time that head coach Thiago Motta has faced his former boss Mourinho as a managerial rival, but the ex-Inter midfielder will have to put memories of the historic treble they won together in 2010 to one side on Monday, as he seeks to cause a major upset.

Team News

Having picked up a minor thigh problem in midweek, Nicolo Zaniolo is set to be fit for the midweek match with Atalanta, but must first serve a suspension on Monday. Defensive mainstay Gianluca Mancini is also sidelined by a ban.

The Italian internationals join several others in being ruled out of Jose Mourinho's plans, including Carles Perez, Stephan El Shaarawy and influential captain Lorenzo Pellegrini. Roma have won nearly two-thirds of their Serie A games this season with their skipper in the side, but have lost all three league matches without him.

After being rested in midweek, Rui Patricio, Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan come back into the team, while either Eldor Shomurodov or Borja Mayoral will join Tammy Abraham up front.

Having tested positive for COVID-19 a week ago, young striker Felix Afena-Gyan has now returned consecutive negative tests and could feature on the bench.

Meanwhile, Spezia's forward department is expected to include Roma primavera graduate Daniele Verde, who played seven Serie A matches for the Giallorossi in the 2014-15 campaign and scored against his former side in both fixtures last term.

The Aquilotti's only significant absentee should be midfielder Leo Sena, while Simone Bastoni and Salva Ferrer are contenders to return to the first XI as full-backs.

Roma possible starting lineup:

Patricio; Kumbulla, Smalling, Ibanez; Karsdorp, Veretout, Cristante, Mkhitaryan, Vina; Shomurodov, Abraham

Spezia possible starting lineup:

Provedel; Amian, Erlic, Nikolaou, Bastoni; Kovalenko, Sala, Maggiore; Verde, Nzola, Gyasi

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