Roma v Sassuolo preview: Mkhitaryan in line for debut upon international return

A first win of the season will be the target as Roma host Sassuolo upon their return from the international break on Sunday.

Before the players headed off with their countries, Paulo Fonseca led his side to two successive draws in Serie A – with Genoa and Lazio preventing the coach from gaining his first win with Roma.

Since then, Roma had a final flourish in the transfer market, bringing in Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Nikola Kalinic on deadline day. The former could play a key role if called up for his debut, given that Diego Perotti and Cengiz Under are injured, and Justin Kluivert is struggling for form.

Fellow new arrival Chris Smalling had potentially been in line for a club debut after being an unused substitute against Lazio, but a minor groin injury picked up in training through the week has delayed his first appearance for his new side. The Englishman has already become the fifth player to be consigned to the treatment tables this season – after Perotti, Under, Davide Zappacosta and Leonardo Spinazzola.

The latter, signed from Juventus this summer, is ready to return having been called back up to the squad, but is unlikely to start given the positive opening to the season for fellow left-back Aleksandar Kolarov. After scoring against former side Lazio in the Derby Della Capitale, the Serbian captained his country in two games during the international break, providing an assist in their win over Luxembourg.

Kolarov is one of several players to have performed well over the international break, who will be hoping to transmit their form over to club level. Mkhitaryan scored twice as his country won 4-2 against Bosnia-Herzegovina, for whom Roma talisman Edin Dzeko also found the back of the net. A few days earlier, Mkhitaryan had come up against his new clubmates Alessandro Florenzi and Lorenzo Pellegrini in a clash with Italy, in which the latter scored his first international goal.


So far, Fonseca has deployed Pellegrini in a deeper role than the one he usually plays for the national team, but that could change on Sunday. Summer signings Jordan Veretout and Amadou Diawara are pushing for starting berths in the double midfield pivot, which would allow Pellegrini to slot into his preferred trequartista role, shifting Nicolo Zaniolo – who scored his first Roma goal against the same opponents last season – out to the wing to deputise for the sidelined Under.


Pellegrini will not be the only player to be coming up against his former club. Striker Gregoire Defrel returned to the Mapei Stadium this summer after a disappointing two years with Roma. However, he did manage to score against his parent club when on loan at Sampdoria last season, so the Giallorossi will be eager to avoid a similar fate, as they push for a first three points of the year.

It’s a slightly earlier kick-off than usual, with the game scheduled to start at 5pm UK time. It will be shown live on Premier Sports 1.


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