The semifinals are finally here. Liverpool versus Roma first leg is Tuesday night at Anfield.
Liverpool is here thanks to a 5-1 aggergate win over Manchester City and Roma advanced 4-4 on road goals over Barcelona thanks to a 3-0 win at home over the last leg.
No doubt Liverpool fans have been excited about this from the time this tie was announced. No doubt Real Madrid or Bayern Munich come in with more pedigree than Roma but if you think this is going to be easy you’re drunk.
Roma is a very good team, anyone who can beat Barca 3-0 anywhere is a quality team and is capable of beating anyone.
I still think Liverpool is the favorites but this won’t be easy to get to the final.
Roma is coming into this relatively healthy and Liverpool who we all know about their injuries are as healthy as they can be right now. At least it’s just Matip, Lallana, and Can at this point. I would prefer to have them all available but at least it’s just them at this point.
I think we can all predict Liverpool’s lineup at this point unless Jurgen Klopp pulls a surprise. It should be Karius, Alexander-Arnold, van Dijk, Lovren, Robertson, Henderson, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane, Firmino, and Salah.
Roma on the other hand usually lines up in a 4-3-3, but I have seen some people say that there is a possibility that they go with a 3-5-2.
I can see this for the leg at Anfield. Roma will be looking for a road goal but they will also be looking to not let Liverpool jump out to a huge leg 1 lead like they have had in the first two rounds. They jumped out to a 5-0 lead after the first leg against Porto and a 3-0 lead after the first leg against Manchester City.
Roma’s manager Eusebio Di Francesco is a smart practical man and is well aware of their attack. Of course we all know that Mo Salah came from Roma so if anyone knows what Salah is capable of is Roma.
I can see the 3 man back hope to slow Liverpool down and look to find Eden Dzeko on the counter attack. It will be an interesting tactical battle early to see how Roma tries to play this but expect a more defensive and looking for a counter approach. So this means Liverpool will have to find ways to breakdown a team sitting back on them which isn’t their strong suit but also is something they have gotten a lot better at this season.
Roma’s midfield will also be a huge key. No matter what the formation is Liverpool will have to deal with the midfield trio of De Rossi, Nainggolan, and Strootman. These 3 are hard nails and will bring a physical approach to the game. They will make life difficult for Liverpool in the midfield and make it difficult for Liverpool to find the space that they will crave.
But as good as these 3 are they can also be beat with pace and this is where Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will come up big. He can use his pace in the midfield to run at Roma which can open up space for Liverpool, this will be highly important to getting the Reds attack unleashed.
Regardless of how Roma play Kolarov and Florenzi will be keys to this tie. They will look to get up the pitch when on the attack. It doesn’t matter if they are wing backs or if they are fullbacks.
It will be an interesting matchup between them and Alexander-Arnold/Robertson. We know Liverpool’s fullbacks want to get up the pitch and link up with Mane and Salah plus if they’re able to do this it will mean they have Roma pinned back which will also mean that Dzeko will be isolated and van Dijk and Lovren will have an easier time dealing with him.
Liverpool has had issues with target men in the past like Lukaku and Benteke so they will have to have it figured out today. Look for Roma to do the same and have Dzeko go at Lovren, we will see if Klopp adjusts and has van Dijk switch onto Dzeko but I wouldn’t expect it. I don’t think Klopp likes doing that because switching like that can lead to mental mistakes and coverage errors so a lot will be on Dejan Lovren in this.
Liverpool’s player movement will be a huge key. When the front 3, fullbacks, and attacking part of midfield is able to create a lot of movement space is opened up and this attack will be lethal.
Just like pretty much any game ever the battle for space will be a key but it will be really crucial for Liverpool not to get stagnant against this defense or they will have a hard time with this Roma defense.
Liverpool will have a huge pace advantage which they can exploit if the movement is good.
3. Anfield factor
We know Anfield will be nuts for this game. Anfield nighttime Champions League games have been special forever and that feeling came back against Manchester City.
Most of the time the role of the crowd is overrated by fans because they want to feel important but against Manchester City it was real and was likely a big factor for Liverpool’s fast start.
I would expect it to be nothing different for this.
We know there are going to be a huge gathering lining the streets to welcome the team buses. This can set a tone before the teams even reach the stadium. It will also be a passionate crowd when the first whistle blows, I have no fears with this crowd. The crowd will be up for this and stay in it the full 90. I think this crowd is worth a goal for the Reds.
As great as crowds are in Italy the crowd here will be unlike anything Roma has felt.
Both teams come into this in pretty good form. Liverpool had 6 wins, 1 loss, and 3 draws in their last 10. Liverpool is third in the league. While Roma has 6 wins, 2 losses, and 2 draws in their last 10. They are also 3rd in their league.
5. Allison factor
We have talked a lot about Roma’s lineup, their tactics, and for the best way for Liverpool to attack them but we haven’t talked about their best player who is their goalie who just goes by Allison. He’s Brazilian so even though his full name is Allison Becker he just goes by Allison.
You won’t get any cheapies off of him. I know I’ve written before about his performance in the group stage game at home against Atleti. It was as good of a game I’ve seen a goalie play.
There is no doubt he can steal this by himself so Liverpool will have to be sharp with their finishing.
6. The pick
This won’t be easy like I said. It won’t be City who is an attack first team who when they actually tried to play a little differently they got all out of sorts, which gave Liverpool a huge advantage. I think Roma will play the 3-5-2 which will be an interesting tactical battle between that and Klopp’s 4-3-3. A 3-5-2 is a tough set up for a 4-3-3 but if Liverpool can win the wide battle and get numbers out there I think that is where they can create the space that is needed.
I think the link up play between Robertson and Mane and Alexander-Arnold and Salah can create a numbers advantage. Plus Firmino’s ability to draw bodies with him when he goes for one which should draw one of the 3 center backs out and create avenues for others to get in.
Liverpool is going to have to have great player and ball movement but I think they know that. Jurgen Klopp is a smart man so he will have something to ready to throw at Roma. I think Liverpool gets the win, but it will be much more hard fought than I think a lot of people expect.