Mourinho reveals plans to have Zeki Celik fill in as a centreback

Andy Mattioli

Roma boss Jose Mourinho was specifically asked about his side’s defensive phase with the imminent departure of Evan Ndicka for AFCON and Chris Smalling’s prolonged absence.

In his press conference on Friday, Mourinho discussed the situation with the media, including his plans to involve Turkish fullback Zeki Celik more as a centreback in the coming weeks.

“If I start thinking about all that, I might lose focus ahead of the game that we need to play in before January, which is in Turin tomorrow. We have three centre-backs who’ve been playing for a while. We have Bryan [Cristante] who’ll play in midfield, but if needed, he can drop into the defence. We’ve been working with [Zeki] Celik for a while as a centre-back to try to boost his tactical knowledge so that he can play there. He did so for 60 minutes against Sheriff. Of course, we’re talking about a very basic level, but we’re trying to gradually improve what he can do.”

“We’ve known for six months now that Ndicka would be off to the Africa Cup of Nations. We’ve known for six months that [Marash] Kumbulla wouldn’t be available in January. It’s impossible for him to start, but he could be on the bench to help out. For the last three months, we’ve known that [Chris] Smalling wouldn’t be available in January. We’ve known for six months that this would be the situation in January and early February until the end of the Africa Cup of Nations. Now we know that Mancini and Cristante are one game from suspension. You can imagine the scenario of having just one centre-back for a specific match.”

“We’ve known about this for many months. I promised myself I’d go down a path in which I give everything that I have regardless of the circumstances. That’s what I’ll do.”

“After Juventus, we’ll start thinking about the Cremonese game. My job is to prepare the team as well as possible with the resources at my disposal.”

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MatchDay 37
19 May 20:45