Zorya Luhansk v Roma preview: Rotation expected in Conference League

Roma play their first away match, and second game overall, of the Europa Conference League group stage on Thursday, against Zorya Luhansk.

After comfortably beating CSKA Sofia at home in the opener, Roma are aiming to pick up another win to help turn things in the right direction again after the derby defeat at the weekend.

On paper, they will be favourites to beat the Ukrainians, who are nevertheless the next highest seed in the group. But Jose Mourinho is likely to rotate his lineup, perhaps to the most significant degree yet in his tenure.

The new boss has been sticking with a fairly similar selection in his first nine matches in charge. However, after a draining few weeks, he could switch things up this time.

Two areas that will definitely see change are right-back and defensive midfield. Unfortunately, neither role has the depth Mourinho wants, but he will use alternatives there regardless, with neither Rick Karsdorp nor Jordan Veretout travelling.

Roger Ibanez is more likely to cover at right-back than Bryan Reynolds, allowing Chris Smalling to come in at centre-back. The midfield spot will be up for grabs between Gonzalo Villar and Amadou Diawara; they could in fact start together if a seemingly fatigued Bryan Cristante is also rested.

Up front, Tammy Abraham may get a breather to allow Eldor Shomurodov a start. Out wide, meanwhile, Nicolo Zaniolo will probably rest in favour of Carles Perez playing.

Riccardo Calafiori and Marash Kumbulla are the other fringe players who may fancy their chances in defence.

Given Mourinho’s reluctance to use some of his backups so far, this could be a real opportunity for them. Although favourites, Roma will be tested by Zorya, who lost their opening group game but have two league wins since. Therefore, those fringe players should be able to express themselves in a competitive environment.

Trips to Ukraine have traditionally never been easy for Roma. Zorya are a new opponent, but previous travels to their country have only seen two Roma wins from six.

Mourinho spoke at his pre-match press conference, though, about how the conditions there at this time of year will almost be perfect for playing. Despite the long trip, Roma remain confident of bringing three points back – even if they know they will have to work for them.

The game kicks off at 5:45pm BST and will be live on the BT Sport ESPN channel in the UK.

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