Smalling returns for Roma

Roma have Chris Smalling back in the squad to face Fiorentina, but Roger Ibanez and Edin Dzeko are still out of action.

It kicks off on Wednesday at 19.45 GMT, click here for a match preview.

Paulo Fonseca still has some problems to deal with, as Ibanez, Davide Santon, Dzeko, Riccardo Calafiori and Nicolò Zaniolo are on the treatment table.

However, Marash Kumbulla was available on the bench against Milan at the weekend and could start, while Smalling returns to the squad too.

Roma squad for Fiorentina: Pau Lopez, Mirante, Fuzato; Karsdorp, Juan Jesus, Smalling, Fazio, Mancini, Kumbulla, Peres, Spinazzola; Cristante, Pellegrini, Villar, Veretout, Pastore, Diawara, Mkhitaryan; Pedro, Mayoral, Perez, El Shaarawy

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Pioli: ‘Romagnoli? They are simply choices’

Milan coach Stefano Pioli confirmed Rafael Leao will start up front against Udinese and defended his decision to leave out Alessio Romagnoli last time. ‘You can’t always have the same ideas’.

The Rossoneri are without injured Hakan Calhanoglu and Zlatan Ibrahimovic against the Friuli, but Pioli wants to see continuity after the 2-1 win over Roma last time.

“The numbers speak for themselves, unfortunately without fans, it’s not so decisive playing at home or away,” Pioli said at a press conference.

“There are more and more away wins that in the previous years, clearly playing in their own stadium can give advantages.

“Tomorrow will be an important match, Udinese are an organised team that put us under pressure in the first leg.

“We will need a great performance.”

Pioli excluded captain Alessio Romagnoli last time and was asked if it could happen again.

“The matches are all important, but also different,” he said. “For me, it’s unfortunate to be spoilt for choice.

“Only tomorrow, we will try the starting line-up. I will choose the one who is better off. We arrive from a beautiful win, let’s give continuity to our results.”

Rafael Leao has only scored five goals in 19 Serie A games, but the coach defends the 21-year-old centre-forward.

“You are very good at finding the negative things,” Pioli said. “A few weeks ago, we were talking about a Rafael Leao who as decisive.

“Tomorrow he will have the opportunity to start. He doesn’t need to be pampered or helped, because he’s ready.”

Zlatan suffered a muscle injury against Roma and will participate at Sanremo this week.

“Zlatan is our champion, but the leader must be our game, as we demonstrated last Sunday,” the coach continued.

“If we play like this, we can do well even without Ibrahimovic and Calhanoglu. We have many players who can be decisive.”

On Sunday, Milan bounced back from two defeats against Spezia and Inter in Serie A and Pioli said the Rossoneri only focus on themselves and not the Scudetto battle.

“I would have been surprised if Ibra had said something different in the press conference,” Pioli said about Milan’s chances of winning the League.

“It’s right that he says certain things. We have to focus only on ourselves. We have to win as many games as possible and play our football.

“We are satisfied with the match in Rome. It’s the decisive moment of the season, we remain focused and try to get the most out of it.

“Then we will see what position we will be in.”

Milan went four games without a win and scraped through on away goals in the Europa League and Pioli said the ‘great team spirit’ helped them against the Giallorossi.

“The last few weeks have allowed us to change certain things,” he said. “The team believed in what they were doing and were putting their habits into play.

“In Rome there was a great team spirit. We must continue like this.”

Pioli said Sanremo finishes too late for him to watch Ibrahimovic perform in the music festival.

“Ibra is an extra weapon for us, but the fact that the team did well without him, it means we have some qualities,” Pioli said about the Swede’s absence.

“Tonight, I will watch Juventus-Spezia. I spoke to Ibrahimovic. Unfortunately, Sanremo finished too late for me.”

The coach said he spoke to Romagnoli about the exclusion from the line-up and confirmed that Ante Rebic available tomorrow.

“Only you talk about failures, for me they are simply choices,” Pioli said. “I talked to him.

“You can’t always have the same ideas, but the important thing is respect.

“Rebic is fine, tomorrow morning he can prepare and play against Udinese. On Sunday, he played a great game.

“His characteristics are important for us. There are no doubts about his qualities.”

Pioli said Mario Mandzukic and Ismael Bennacer are recovering but will ‘work separately this week’.

“They are progressing in the individual work. This week they work separately,” he revealed. “I hope to get some good news this week and that they can be available.”

Milan responded to the criticism after the defeats to Spezia and Inter.

“In my opinion, we have the opportunity to demonstrate that the extraordinary thing was the two weeks we didn’t play well,” he said.

“It can happen when a team plays so often and was not used to maintaining certain rhythms. We must show that we are a team that have an important growth path.

“We are not dwelling on the past. What we do from tomorrow and onwards will be decisive.”

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Mirante to replace Pau Lopez again?

According to Sky Sport Italia, Antonio Mirante could replace Pau Lopez against Fiorentina on Wednesday.

Pau Lopez gave it away cheaply to Alexis Saelemaekers, allowing Ante Rebic to score the winner in the second half of Roma-Milan on Sunday.

It was not the only mistake of the night for the Spaniard who can be replaced by Antonio Mirante on Wednesday when Roma face Fiorentina at the Artemio Franchi.

Mirante, a former Parma goalkeeper, has already replaced Pau Lopez at the beginning of the season.

The 37-year-old played 11 of Roma’s opening 14 Serie A games before picking up a biceps femoris injury.

Mirante’s contract expires at the end of the season and Milan have been linked with securing his services as a free agent.

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Zlatan out of four important games

Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic has suffered a muscle injury in the left thigh and will be reassessed in 10 days, missing four important games.

The Rossoneri forward was replaced in the 2-1 win over Roma on Sunday and the medical report revealed an injury to the left adductor.

The Swede will be re-evaluated in 10 days and is forced to sit out of some important games, including games against Udinese, Hellas Verona and Napoli, as well as the match against former club Manchester United in the Europa League.

If the check in 10 days is reassuring, it will be followed by a rehabilitation programme and the recovery time will be established.

For Hakan Calhanoglu, the tests revealed an issue with the medial flexor muscles of the left thigh.

The attacking midfielder will be out of the next match against Udinese, but will be evaluated ahead of the game against Verona.

These are the games Zlatan will definitely miss:

March 3 – Milan vs. Udinese

March 7 – Hellas Verona vs. Milan

March 11 – Manchester United vs. Milan

March 14 – Milan vs. Napoli

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Bruno Peres’ birthday party sparks controversy

Bruno Peres posted pictures of his birthday party on social media. Neither he nor his friends were wearing face masks, but the player’s entourage assures they had all had swab tests before attending the party.

The Brazilian defender turns 31 today and celebrated his birthday in style in Ostia, nearby Rome.

His girlfriend and some of his friends attended the party, but none appeared to be wearing protective masks.

The Region of Lazio is in the yellow tier, which means restaurants can remain open for lunch, but not for dinner.

However, it is mandatory to wear masks, something that neither Bruno Peres nor his friend do in the videos posted by the 31-year-old on social media.

According to Il Messaggero, some Roma fans have criticised the player on Twitter and Instagram, but his agents assure all the party participants had had negative swab tests before the event.

Bruno Peres’ contract expires at the end of the season and he’s recently revealed his desire to extend his stay at the club.

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