Liverpool will be aiming to book their tickets for the Kiev finale when they travel to Stadio Olimpico to take on AS Roma for the semi-final second leg on Wednesday
The UEFA Champions League finalists will be known this week when the four semi-finalists compete in the second leg of their respective ties. In the Italian capital, AS Roma will be hoping for a Barcelona-like comeback when they play hosts to Liverpool at Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday.
Roma warmed up for the second leg with a 4-1 win over Chievo in the Serie A last weekend that saw them keep a firm grip on third spot. As they turn their attention back to the Champions League, they have a three-goal deficit to make up with memories of a similar turnaround against Barcelona still fresh in everyone’s minds.
Liverpool, on the other hand, produced a tame performance as they were held to a goalless draw by Stoke City at Anfield. But, Jurgen Klopp is grappling with a tough situation heading into the second leg, with assistant manager Zeljko Buvac taking a leave of absence for the remainder of the season, and reportedly set to leave the club.
The first leg, played at Anfield last week, saw Liverpool run out 5-2 winners, with Roma shortening the lead with two late goals. Ahead of the second leg meeting on Wednesday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Eusebio Di Francesco has a few injury concerns to deal with ahead of the visit of Liverpool for the second leg. On Wednesday, the AS Roma boss could be without as many as four first-team players due to various injuries.
The likes of Rick Karsdorp, Gregoire Defrel (both knee) and Diego Perotti (ankle) will definitely miss the game. Kevin Strootman (ribs) is on the treatment table as well, and has a race against time to regain fitness for the game.
The latest from the Roma manager suggests that the Dutchman might not be fit enough to start, although he might make the bench. In his absence, Lorenzo Pellegrini is set to be handed a rare start in Europe, with the young Italian set to accompany Daniele De Rossi and Radja Nainggolan in midfield.
De Rossi and Nainggolan will again be key for Roma to stifle the Liverpool midfielders and retain control of the game. But, they will need help in pressing from the front men, which is where Patrik Schick and Stephan El Shaarawy come in, with the duo looking to put pressure on the Liverpool full-backs, while Edin Dzeko will press the centre halves.
At the back, a possible shift in system is expected, with Di Francesco reverting to a four-man backline, which could see Juan Jesus drop out of the side, with Federico Fazio and Kostas Manolas starting at the heart of the Roma defence. Aleksandar Kolarov will need to turn in a better outing on Wednesday, with Mohamed Salah running rampant at Anfield.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Florenzi, Manolas, Fazio, Kolarov; Pellegrini, De Rossi, Nainggolan; Schick, Dzeko, El Shaarawy
The problems just keep on appearing at the wrong time for Jurgen Klopp. While the Zeljko Buvac issue is enough of a distraction, the Liverpool manager is also up against it as far as injuries are concerned, ahead of the trip to Stadio Olimpico, with as many as four first-team players sidelined.
The latest player on the treatment table is Joe Gomez, who has missed the trip to the Italian capital due to an ankle injury. In his absence, Trent Alexander-Arnold should continue as the right-back, with Andrew Robertson returning to the side after being rested on the weekend.
At the heart of the Liverpool defence, Klopp has just three options at his disposal, with Joel Matip’s season brought to a premature end due to a thigh injury. The Liverpool boss should pick the partnership of Dejan Lovren and Virgil van Dijk once again, although the duo will need to be diligent against the threat of Dzeko.
In midfield, Klopp is down to his bare bones, with both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) and Emre Can (back) sidelined due to their respective injuries. As a result, the trio of Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner and Jordan Henderson should start, with the Liverpool captain braving a knock to feature.
Up ahead in attack, the fearsome threesome will be looking to become the first side in Europe to score at Stadio Olimpico this season, with Sadio Mane shrugging off a minor injury to be available for the game. The Senegalese will combine with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, looking to wreak havoc on the Roma defence once again.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-3-3): Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson; Salah, Firmino, Mane
- Liverpool are yet to lose to Roma in the European Cup/Champions League in four meetings (W2 D2). One of the draws was in the 1984 final (1-1), which Liverpool won 4-2 on penalties in the Stadio Olimpico.
- This is Liverpool’s 10th appearance in the semi-final of the European Cup – they’ve progressed to the final on seven of the previous nine occasions, losing only in 1964-65 against Inter Milan and in 2007-08 against Chelsea.
- Roma are the only team yet to concede a single goal at home in the Champions League this season (five games). They have also won all of their past four such games at the Olimpico (including two by three clear goals), but have never won five in a row.
- Meanwhile, Liverpool are the only unbeaten side in the Champions League this season (W7 D4).
- The Reds have scored 38 goals in this season’s competition, the most by an English team in a single Champions League campaign. In fact, since the new format was introduced in 2003-04, only Real Madrid (41 goals in 2013-14) scored more than Liverpool have this season.
Player To Watch
The Barcelona comeback was not too long ago, and it was Edin Dzeko who had set the tone for a popular win then. On Wednesday, the Bosnian will have similar responsibilities once again, with a 3-0 win enough to send Roma through to the Champions League final.
Dzeko will have to constantly keep the pressure on Dejan Lovren and Virgil van Dijk, try and stretch the duo out of position and take his chances against Loris Karius on a night when there’s very little room for error. A repeat of the Barcelona performance could just see lightning strike twice.
AS Roma 2-0 Liverpool
Roma kept themselves in the tie with the two late goals in the first leg last week, but will need to get their tactics spot on to make another stirring comeback on Wednesday. Defending with a high line played right into Liverpool’s hands, when they needed to cut off the space for the Reds, something they are likely to do in the second leg.
The fact that they are yet to concede at home in the Champions League this season will only give them more confidence, although Liverpool will pose the biggest threat yet, and should come close. But, The Hard Tackle predicts a Roma win with a clean sheet in tow, only to fall just short on the night.