Chris Smalling sets to face former club as AS Roma square up against Man United

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Chris Smalling

Chris Smalling may be handed a start against his former club Manchester United in the Europa League after making his return to action for Roma on Sunday.

After missing nine games due to a knee injury, Smalling was able to get back on the pitch for Roma’s trip to Cagliari in Serie A on Sunday.

The English defender could feature at Old Trafford after making his first start in a month at Cagliari.

The 31-year-old was powerless to prevent Paulo Fonseca’s side from falling to a 3-2 defeat, but could now be in line to feature in the first leg of their semi-final tie at Old Trafford.

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Fonseca reserved special praise for Smalling, who joined Roma on a permanent €15 million (£13m/$18m) transfer from United last summer, despite watching his team lose more ground in the race for European qualification in Serie A.

“He did very well. It was important to get Chris at least 45 minutes of playing time, he had more than that, and I think it was positive,” the Roma boss told Sky Italia. “Now he has the chance to play against Manchester United.

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“Unfortunately, we were unable to give some playing time to all those who were coming back from injury, but Chris and Leonardo Spinazzola were the most important ones to get minutes in their legs.”

Much was expected from Smalling this season after his impressive performances on loan at Stadio Olimpico in 2019-20, but injuries have significantly hampered his progress. The England international has been restricted to just 18 appearances across all competitions.

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Roma will travel to Manchester on Thursday as they seek an advantage in their last four Europa League encounter to take back to Italy. The second leg is scheduled to take place at Stadio Olimpico on May 6, with Villarreal or Arsenal awaiting the winners.


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