Champions League: Barcelona vs Roma – Lineups, preview and prediction
Barcelona host Roma in the first leg of the quarterfinals in what seems to be one of the straight forward ties – but can the Italians upset the odds?
19:45 BST, Wednesday 4th April, Nou Camp (Barcelona, Spain), BT Sport
Barcelona welcome Roma to the Nou Camp on Wednesday night boasting an impressive record of 12 home games unbeaten against Italian sides. As if the tie wasn’t hard enough for Roma, Lionel Messi has scored 12 goals in 19 games against Serie A opposition.
The teams have a history of meeting in the Champions League, most recently in the 2015/16 group stage. The two clashes were worlds apart from each other but could provide a good basis for what to expect from the two ties. Back in 2015 Barca dominated the first game 6-1 but drew the tie in Rome 1-1.
A similar thing could occur this time around with Barcelona still being a dominant force in Europe, especially at home. They swept Chelsea aside in the Round of 16 second leg thanks to a Lionel Messi masterclass and will want to head to Rome leaving Roma very little chance of causing an upset.
Roma won’t be scared, though. An impressive victory – on away goals – in the last round against a very resilient Shakhtar Donetsk will give them reason to believe in themselves. Holding Barcelona isn’t an easy task but providing they don’t get swept away they have a very real chance in this tie and shouldn’t be counted out.
Last Time Out
Sevilla 2-2 Barcelona (La Liga)
Barcelona just about kept their 37-game unbeaten streak in La Liga intact after salvaging a draw away to Sevilla with two very late goals, thanks to a saviour of a substitution in Lionel Messi.
Sevilla took the lead late in the first half when Franco Vazquez was able to find the back of the net from the edge of the six-yard box when Joaquin Correa’s cross squirmed its way through. Luis Muriel doubled the home side’s lead shortly after the break after his deflected strike was able to evade Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Los Rojiblancos were just 40 minutes from a famous victory but thanks to the never say die attitude of Barcelona and, perhaps more importantly, a Lionel Messi introduction, the Catalan giants were able to get themselves back into the game.
Luis Suarez converted a late corner from close range to push Sevilla to the edge of their seats before Messi completed the comeback, his 89th-minute strike too hot to handle for Rico and finding the back of the net.
The resilience shown will be a huge boost for Barcelona and sets them one game away from equalling the record of 38 La Liga games unbeaten set by Real Sociedad in 1980.
Bologna 1-1 Roma (Serie A)
Roma can count themselves unlucky that they only came away from the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara with a point after a dominant performance.
Patrick Shick and Daniele De Rossi were both denied early on by Bologna keeper Antonio Santurro as the home side survived a series of Roma attacks.
However, with their only strike on target in the entire game, Bologna took the lead. Erick Pulgar’s low driven effort found the bottom corner after Roma failed to clear the ball. La Lupa should’ve equalised just moments later, but Kevin Strootman hit the post from close range.
The turning point of the game for Roma was the introduction of Edin Dzeko to the game. The Bosnian striker came on for Stephan El Shaarawy in the 61st minute and immediately improved the away side’s forward line.
Just 13 minutes after his introduction he snuck in at the near post and looped a header into the fair corner to grab a more than deserved point for Roma, who now sit in third just two points above Inter Milan, who have a game in hand.
FC Barcelona Lineup
Barcelona have nearly a clean bill of health, but Sergio Busquets remains a doubt. His presence depends on how well he recovers and if he passes a late fitness test.
Sergi Roberto is one yellow card away from a suspension.
AS Roma Lineup
Radja Nainggolan is a doubt for the tie with a thigh injury but may be risked by Eusebio Di Francesco.
Diego Perotti and Kostas Manolas are both a booking away from suspension.
Key Battle: Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona) vs Alexander Kolarov (AS Roma)
It goes without saying that stopping Messi is damn near impossible. But if you want any chance of taking something away from Nou Camp, then somewhat stopping the flow of the Argentinian is imperative.
It could be the worst night of Alexander Kolarov’s career if Messi is in the mood. He has dismantled much better full backs in his career and could do so again if he feels like it. Leo has a great record against Italian clubs in the Champions League to make it that bit harder.
That’s not to say that Alexander Kolarov and Kostas Manolas can’t stop him. Getafe, Leganes and Girona have all been able to achieve the highly improbable this season, so Roma can as well.
Of course, even with Messi being stopped, there’s still a lot to do in defence with Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele lurking.
Can Suarez break his duck?
Ernesto Valverde has backed the Uruguayan to find his goal scoring form in Europe after struggling to find the back of the net in this year’s campaign.
Having played in every game this year and only missing around 16 minutes of action, you’d expect the volatile striker to be hitting high numbers with his talents.
But he hasn’t found the back of the net once for Barcelona in Europe this year, only registering three assists: two against Chelsea and the other one coming in their very first game of the group stages at home to Juventus.
Barcelona haven’t suffered without their key striker being in-form but haven’t hit over three goals in a single CL game. Having Suarez be that bit more clinical could be the difference in a tight game and edge out a tie when he’s needed most.
The midfield battles
Midfielders from both camps are facing late fitness tests to start on Wednesday and the result could play a huge turning point in the tie.
Roma are waiting on Radja Nainggolan to prove his fitness, whilst Barcelona are waiting for Sergio Busquets to be given the all clear. Either side losing one of their men could change the game entirely.
Busquets has been a rock in the Catalonians midfield for years and has lead the way for central defensive midfielders all over Europe. His importance in this Barcelona is vastly underrated as he gives the more attacking players so much freedom to steal the show.
Meanwhile, Radja Nainggolan is the catalyst and playmaker for Roma. Without him in the midfield pulling the strings and partnering Kevin Strootman, the attacking trio of Perotti, Dzeko and El Shaarawy will find themselves very isolated.
Prediction: Barcelona 3-1 Roma
Barcelona just have too much for Roma to handle. Their attack is by far their most dominant aspect and will, once again, be unstoppable.
Luis Suarez will be keen to prove he hasn’t lost his goal-scoring touch in Europe and a motivated Suarez isn’t one Roma will want to be facing.