Barcelona vs Roma Champions League – 1st Leg sees Messi not a 100% fit and Roma looking to force a Draw
Barcelona has had one of their most flawless seasons in recent memory. Not only have the Blaugrana lost a single of their 29 la Liga games, but they also are in the finals of the Copa Del Rey. As far as the UEFA Champions League is concerned, their progress has been blemishless, demolishing Chelsea 3-0 at Nou Camp to move into the Round of 8.
The Catalan giants now meet Roma on April 4 for the 1st leg of the quarter-finals. For Barca, Messi has been at his usual best. The same cannot be said of his co-forward Luiz Suarez who is finding scoring not as easy as before since the time talismanic Argentine has started playing in the “False 9” position and with the advent of Coutinho upfront in place of Neymar. Paco Alcacer, the 24-year old Spanish striker, has made up for any deficiences in Suarez's frequent suspensions or loss of form.
The defense marshalled by Sergi Roberto, Gerarard Pique, Umtiti and Jordi Alba look very solid, further strengthened by the superb Marc ter Stegen between the posts.
The Catalans have conceded an astonishingly low count of 13 goals in the La Liga season so far and just a couple in the ongoing 2017-18 Champions League season.
The good news is that Barca's £100m acquisition from Borussia Dortmund, Ousmane Dembele, seems to be getting over his injury woes and finding form at the right time. Along with Messi and Suarez upfront, Ousmane Dembele could make up a fearsome trio that could trouble Roma big time. Barcelona's next local fixture before the Champions League clash next week was with Sevilla on Saturday. There is every chance coach Ernesto Valverde could have rested Messi and a couple of big names for the match keeping in view the clash against Roma. He did but employed Messi to rescue the team when 0-2 down to level at 2-2.
As for Roma, Eusebio Di Francesco will go for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Edin Dzeko as the lone striker and the likes of Cengiz Under, Radja Nainggolan and Diego Perotti behind the Bosnian. Barca while expected to dominate ball possession, could be severely tested by vicious counter-attacks led the very dangerous Dzeko and the Turkish boy-wonder, Under. Lorenzo Pellegrini in the midfield and Aleksandar Kolarov,Federico Fazio and Federico Fazio at the back would form the bulwark of the Roma defense.
The focus will particularly be on the 20-year old Under especially, who started playing for the Turkish national team while in his teens and already has four international goals to show from his 8 outings. For Roma, he already has 6 from his 24 appearances and will be hoping to scorch the right wing at Nou Camp on Wednesday. Roma go to Bolgna to play a Serie A match before they fly to Barcelona next week. Coach Eusebio Di Francesco is expected to rest a few key players for the Bologna clash as he wouldn't be too worried against a club who have won just once in their fifteen appearances since 2010 against Roma.
But what's worrisome for the Italian club is their poor showing against the Spanish giants in the Champions League. Roma's last trip to Nou Camp had ended in disaster when they were blanked out by a dominant Barca 6-1, resulting in their ouster in the Group stage itself.
But the Rome club is hopeful of changing that with the kind of striking talent they possess currently.
Barcelona are past masters of the Championship having reached the semi-final stage three out of the last four times. It would be a gargantuan task for Roma to stop that from happening once more.
The best the visitors can do is to force a draw at Nou Camp or keep the losing margin to something like a 0-1 or 1-2 so that they have some chance to fight back when the Catalans travel to Rome for the 2nd leg. For now, the odds for the Nou Camp match are overwhelmingly in favour of the hosts.