The Anfield Talk’s Luke (@pedley_luke) looks forward to next week’s Champions League tie against AS Roma…
Liverpool’s path to the Champions League semi-final could’ve been a lot harder than they made it.
A tie against the Portuguese champions, Porto, seemed tough, but a Mané masterclass in the first leg swiftly quelled any fears.
As for the City tie, what can be said that hasn’t already? Sure, the first half at the Etihad gave us all collective heart failure, but City managed just 3 shots on target in 180 minutes of football. That’s against a team with 130 goals this season. Liverpool won 5-1 on aggregate and deservedly so.
If you asked most Liverpool fans who they wanted for the Champions League semi-final, the answer for most would’ve understandably been “Roma”.
Without doubt, Liverpool are favourites for the tie.
A quick look at stats shows that Liverpool have flourished in Europe, defensively and offensively, scoring the most and conceding the fewest goals of the teams remaining in the Champions League proper.
|(In 10 Champions League games)||Liverpool||Roma|
|Shots Inside the Area||113||82|
However, these stats aren’t completely fair on Rome’s biggest club – sorry, Lucas.
Roma finished top in a tough group with Spain’s Atletico Madrid and the then Premier League champions, Chelsea. Roma tore apart Chelsea 3-0 and drew 3-3, with target man Edin Dzeko showing everybody his incredible quality.
And then there was the Barcelona second leg.
Roma came back to defy all evidence that football history had shown us. Their chances were minute, with their 4-1 away loss seemingly pointing to a European exit.
We all know what happened then.
Roma’s Champions League campaign has been built on a variety of important and inter-linked facets. Their impressive record of not having conceded a game at home is impressive, while the 4 goals conceded away at Barcelona is certainly an outlier.
Their midfield trio of Strootman, De Rossi and and Nainggolan word hard and one of them will frequently drop into defence to provide extra coverage when Roma are without the ball.
Nainggolan, despite being a self-confessed smoker, is one of the best in world football at winning the ball back, and when the pressure’s on, having a player like Dzeko to hold up play as an out-ball, or run through on goal is a constant threat.
Stylistically, Roma are perhaps the hardest challenge that Liverpool will face in the Champions League.
Despite not being of the same quality as Bayern or Real, their knowledge of this will serve nothing but to act as encouragement. Bayern and Real, assured in their quality, rarely make sacrifices in system for fear of the other team – Roma will.
How to cope with a target man like Dzeko will play on Klopp’s mind. After all, it’s not like Liverpool flourish against such players. The signing of Van Dijk, however, will help mitigate this and Roma’s lack of real pace makes second balls less of an issue if Roma head coach Eusebio Di Francesco decides to target Lovren.
A previous issue for The Reds was overcoming a low block defence, but with Henderson’s range of passing and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s direct running, it is rarely a problem.
Klopp will certainly be aware that Roma will not be as easy as some fans might believe, but there is no doubt that Liverpool possess the quality to beat their Italian opposition and have another shot at the sixth title.