Jose Mourinho floated the idea of moving Romelu Lukaku into central defence after taking an ‘enormous risk’ to help Roma beat Cremonese in the Coppa Italia. Lukaku sparked a late comeback by equalising for Roma in the second half before Paulo Dybala scored from the penalty spot to claim a 2-1 victory with just five minutes remaining.
Roma employed an unusual tactic in their search for a late winner, with Mourinho setting his team up in almost a 2-4-4 formation with no available centre-backs. The 60-year-old later explained that he is prepared to do whatever it takes to guarantee results, even if it means putting Lukaku in defence or shifting his players into an unfamiliar shape.
Mourinho also pointed to fixture congestion as a factor in his thinking as he said: “I don’t know how we will keep going. There is a very important game to play on Sunday, this is who we’ve got. If we need Lukaku to play central defence then he will.
“We play with heart, respect for the club and for the fans. We have Atalanta first, then Lazio in the Coppa Italia. [Sardar] Azmoun leaves next week, [Gianluca] Mancini is injured and on a yellow card, [Leandro] Paredes and [Bryan] Cristante are on cards.
“I don’t know what condition we’ll be in for the games with Lazio and then Milan. All I know is that we give it everything we’ve got. How many clubs can say they have 43 sold out home matches in a row? I too am tired, I ran a few kilometres on that touchline tonight.”
Mourinho went on to explain that he needed to take risks in order to give Roma the best chance of victory due to their injury problems, saying: “I doubt many teams have won a game when playing without a single central defender. We put more people on to fill the final third and the penalty area. We had Dybala to create, Azmoun, [Leonardo] Spinazzola and others going forward.
“If we had gone out, we’d have been dead tired and also know we had tried literally everything against a Cremonese side and a coach who do not belong in Serie B. I am pleased with the performance but it’s tough. This is an enormous risk that we only take in an emergency. The team is accustomed to a high press but we had no centre-backs.”
Mourinho also had a few stern words for pundit Massimo Mauro, who recently criticised the Portuguese boss for using ‘disrespectful’ and unprofessional tactics to win games. The Special One took the opportunity to fire back at Mauro’s earlier comments, saying: “For an ex-player, he does not respect people from his own business.
“There are pundits who spent time on the field, on the touchline. They all respect and know that we are eating from the same plate, whereas he does not do that.”
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