Weblog: The football punter

Liverpool to end Roma's bid to rule Europe

Champions League semi-final second leg
BT Sport 2, 7.45pm Wednesday

Roma famously overturned a 4-1 first-leg deficit when dumping Barcelona out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage but lightning is unlikely to strike twice when the Wolves take on Liverpool at the Stadio Olimpico.

The tie remains open due a late Anfield fightback from the Italians, who struck twice in the last ten minutes of a 5-2 defeat on Merseyside.

But Liverpool have a commanding advantage and the pace and quality of their stellar three-pronged attack - Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane - could prove decisive on a night when the home side will be forced to take risks.

Liverpool were in a similar position after winning 3-0 at home to Manchester City in the first leg of the quarter-finals.

City's Gabriel Jesus reduced the arrears in the second minute of the return match but Liverpool weathered the storm against one of the best attacks in Europe and did the damage after the break with goals from Salah and Firmino.

Jurgen Klopp will use that performance as a template for success in the Italian capital.

From Klopp's perspective, attack is the best form of defence, and the German's tactics have worked a treat in the knockout stage with Liverpool scoring 15 goals in five games - more than any of the other semi-finalists.

Roma deserve respect because of their outstanding 3-0 victory over Barca but they are vulnerable at the Stadio Olimpico where they have suffered four league defeats this year - 2-1 to Atalanta, 1-0 to Sampdoria, 2-0 to Milan and 2-0 to Fiorentina.

For 80 minutes of the match at Anfield they were utterly outclassed and head coach Eusebio Di Francesco will have to come up with different tactics and personnel if his side are to have any hope of recovering.

However, Di Francesco's options are limited by injuries. Winger Diego Perotti, who came off the bench and scored a penalty at Anfield, is a major doubt after sustaining an ankle injury and French attacker Gregoire Defrel (ankle) hasn't featured since early last month.

Czech international striker Patrick Schick - a half-time substitute at Anfield - is highly likely to start and could cause problems with his pace and movement.

However, there are not any truly world-class players in hosts' offensive arsenal and Roma's Serie A goal tally of 59 is 22 behind leaders Juventus.

Perhaps the biggest concern for Liverpool is the tendency for Roma to save their best efforts for Champions League nights.

Roma finished top of a tough group - above Chelsea by virtue of a better head-to-head record and four points superior to Atletico Madrid.

They were convincing 3-0 winners at home to the Blues - a repeat of that result would be enough to see them through to the final.

Di Francesco is likely to reference the Chelsea and Barcelona performances when giving his pre-match team talk.

However, the margin for error against a team of Liverpool's counter-attacking prowess looks even smaller.

Liverpool can usually be relied upon to score - as they have done on all of their last six Champions League road trips this season - and an away goal could set them up for another successful night.


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Match in Focus

19:45 Sa 26May

Real Madrid v Liverpool

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Real have won just one of their last four Champions League meetings against English opposition
Expert verdict
Real Madrid have lifted the Champions League in three of the past four seasons but they could struggle to retain their crown against a lively Liverpool. Real have been the dominant force in Europe, with last year’s 4-1 thumping of Juventus in the final in Cardiff showcasing their superiority. However, Zinedine Zidane’s men have not bumped into a front three like the Reds’ often - Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have netted 29 of their 40 Champions League goals this season - and they are vulnerable to the counter-attack.