Wolfsberger v Roma preview: Zappacosta back in squad as Fonseca prepares changes

Roma’s squad is boosted by the return of Davide Zappacosta for their Europa League trip to Austria to face Wolfsberger, but Lorenzo Pellegrini and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are among the absentees.

The attacking midfield duo were both ruled out for a number of weeks after undergoing tests at Villa Stuart on Tuesday, joining the likes of Cengiz Under and Diego Perotti on the sidelines. That leaves Paulo Fonseca with very limited options for his preferred 4-2-3-1 system against Wolfsberger, with Justin Kluivert, Nicolo Zaniolo and Javier Pastore the only fit players to have played so far this season who are comfortable in the attacking midfield roles. Hence, all three are practically guaranteed to start, although there could be an outside chance for Mirko Antonucci, who was retained after a decent pre-season but is yet to play competitively under Fonseca.

Meanwhile, Chelsea loanee Zappacosta is back after an injury setback of his own, and will be ready to provide competition for Alessandro Florenzi or Leonardo Spinazzola at right-back. Perhaps the latter could switch to the left flank, to afford Aleksandar Kolarov some much-needed rest.

Chris Smalling – one of the few players in the squad to have won this competition before elsewhere – could make his European debut for Roma, having seriously impressed in his first two outings in Serie A. His presence in the starting lineup on Thursday is not guaranteed after successive 90 minutes, but if called upon, his experience on this stage will be a boost.

Both sides began the Europa League campaign with resounding 4-0 wins – for Roma, it was a comfortable evening’s work against Istanbul Basaksehir, while Wolfsberger caused a surprise by demolishing German favourites Borussia Monchengladbach. With Israeli striker Shon Weissman in red-hot form, Roma must be wary not to underestimate their opponents, despite them being the bottom seed for the group.

It will be the first time Fonseca has led Roma in a competitive game outside of Italy, with the Portuguese coach hoping to continue his positive record on the road. His side are yet to taste defeat on their travels under his reign. Meanwhile, Wolfsberger remain unbeaten on their own patch since Sturm Graz beat them at the start of August, but in truth, a side of Roma’s stature are yet to visit.

The game kicks off at 5:55pm UK time.

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