Champions League: Liverpool vs AS Roma – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Liverpool welcome Roma to Merseyside on Tuesday for the first leg of their Champions League semifinal fixture.
19:45 BST, Tuesday 24th April, Anfield (Liverpool, England), BT Sport
Having marched past Manchester City by an aggregate score of 5-1, Liverpool’s reward is a semifinal matchup with AS Roma.
Roma are the surprise inclusions at this stage of the tournament. Having lost 4-1 to Barcelona in the Camp Nou, no one expected Eusebio Di Francesco’s side to turn things around in the second leg. This they did, though, and find themselves heading to Liverpool in a bid to make it to the Champions League final.
It’s been a good domestic campaign for Roma despite the fact that they have always been in the shadow of Juventus and Napoli who continue to battle for the Scudetto. With four games left, they find themselves in third place, level on points with cross-city rivals Lazio.
Liverpool are similarly positioned in the Premier League, sitting in third but unable to catch up to the two Manchester clubs in second and third. Where their domestic campaign hasn’t quite matched their Champions League progress, they remain a work in progress, making next season’s Premier League competition look like it could be much more closely contested than this one.
Last Time Out
West Bromwich Albion 2-2 Liverpool (Premier League)
West Bromwich Albion have been giant slayers under the tutelage of part-time manager Darren Moore and so it proved to be again when they hosted Liverpool on Saturday.
When Liverpool went two-nil up in the 72nd minute courtesy of goals from Danny Ings and Mohamed Salah, it looked like their reserve side was cruising towards a victory and a solid third-place finish in the Premier League.
However, goals from Jake Livermore and Salomon Rondon – the latter coming in the 88th minute – turned the tables and saw Jurgen Klopp’s men only coming away with one point.
They will hope their rotation plays off on Tuesday otherwise it will look to have been in vain.
SPAL 0-3 Roma (Serie A)
On Saturday, Roma travelled to Ferrara to take on SPAL at the Stadio Paolo Mazza and ended up running out comfortable 3-0 victors.
The Serie A strugglers were unlucky to be down at halftime thanks to an own goal from Francesco Vicari. However, after the break, goals from Radja Nainggolan and Patrik Schick put the result beyond doubt.
The win leaves Roma in third points, level with Lazio on points but ahead on goal difference.
Although Liverpool will be without Adam Lallana, Joel Matip and Emre Can, Dejan Lovren should make a return and, after starting at the weekend, Joe Gomez is available.
Roma continue to be without Rick Karsdorp to long-term injury and Gregoire Defrel to an ankle problem. However, beyond this, Eusebio Di Francesco has a full squad to choose from.
Key Battle: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) vs Aleksandar Kolarov (AS Roma)
With Mohamed Salah facing his old side, all eyes will be on him on Tuesday night.
On Saturday, the Egyptian drew level with the goal-scoring record for a Premier League season over 28 days with a further three games left to reach that tally.
Having been played as more of a striker than a winger like he was when he played for Roma, Salah has used his blistering pace and mazy dribbling to cause problems up and down the country in the Premier League this season.
He’ll find himself coming up against former Manchester City wingback, Aleksandar Kolarov at Anfield on Tuesday.
Despite the fact the Serbian will seek to double up with Juan Jesus in a bid to slow down the Liverpool forward, it will be interesting to see how Kolarov’s aging legs deal with Salah’s turn of pace.
Will Liverpool take Roma for granted?
Given the fact that very few people expected to see Roma appearing at this stage of the competition, it is vital for Jurgen Klopp’s men not to take their semi-final fixture for granted when they play over the next few weeks.
While Roma are clearly more preferable than Barcelona, Eusebio Di Francesco is clearly a savvy manager who will know where his counterpart’s weak points are and how to exploit them.
As a result, it is important for the home team to come into this fixture with a clear gameplan, sending them into the second leg with the tie under control.
How will Roma approach the game?
Given they lost the away leg to Barcelona 4-1, Roma will be hoping to make easier work of it than they did in the quarter-finals.
Against Barcelona in the away fixture, Roma played their more regular 4-3-3 formation which Di Francesco switched in the second leg to a 3-5-2 which allowed them to cause problems against the Spanish side’s defence.
In the Anfield fixture, the Roma manager will likely favour the 4-3-3 because Liverpool play with a front three, having played the 3-5-2 against Barcelona’s strike pairing of Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Roma
Liverpool will probably have too much for Roma in this first fixture. With Mohamed Salah in the form that he is and Liverpool causing so many problems with their scintillating counter-attacking play, expect them to come out victors by a two-goal margin.