UEFA Champions League preview: Roma vs Liverpool – Olimpico Stadium, Rome – May 2, 2018 –2nd Leg T & C Apply, 18+, gambleaware.co.uk
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While Liverpool fans can celebrate the tremendous drive and verve shown by the team in pumping in five into the net, the two late goals by Roma will leave a slight sense of unease on the Reds' 2nd leg trip to Rome next week. For it wasn't long ago that the Rome team reversed a 1-4 deficit at Nou Camp, Barcelona, to a spectacular 3-0 win in the return leg at home that ousted the Catalan giants from the UEFA Champions League.
Another blow to Liverpool is the knee-injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sustained just 20 minutes of commencement of play. The 24-year old midfielder who is such a force to be reckoned with down the flanks will miss out on the trip to Rome.
The Liverpool defense that weathered an initial burst from the Roma attack looked fragile towards the end and will have to pull up their socks for the return match at the Olimpico stadium on Wednesday, for the likes of Edin Dzeko, Radja Nainggolan, Cenghiz Under, Diego Perotti and Alexander Kolarov are going to come hammer and tongs at them.
Liverpool will be home and dry even if they put up half the performance they did at Anfield. Even an away goal in Rome will seal the issue. Jurgen Klopp will stick to his 4-3-3 formation that will have the usual suspects Salah, Firmino and Sadio Mane upfront and Georginio Wijnaldum (who comes in place of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jordan Henderson and James Milner behind the three attackers.
Klopp is unlikely to adopt any other approach than attack – the only mode he knows best. It's hard to imagine the trio of Salah-Firmino-Sane not finding the back of the net even once. The Reds have scored in 11 out of their 12 UCL outings this season and have amassed a count of 38 goals from those matches.
Roma could bring in midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini and Stephan El Shaarawy (in place of an unimpressive Under) to bolster the attack. The defense that lay in shambles at Anfield will also need repairing. But coach Eusebio Di Francesco will probably retain Alisson between the posts despite the battering at the hands of Mo Salah & co.
Liverpool had a domestic Premier League fixture before they left for Italy when they hosted Stoke City on Saturday – Result 0-0. With the Reds virtually guaranteed a place in the Top Four of the EPL, Klopp is likely to have rested most of his key players and not risk injuries before the all-important European clash.
Roma, like Liverpool, are in the 3rd spot, too, in the Italian Serie A, but with Lazio and Inter-Milan close on their heels with identical points. The Giallorossi host relegation candidate Chievo on April 28.
Bookmakers are wagering on the visiting Reds to go through to their first final after 2005. It would be nothing short of a miracle if Roma were to achieve what they did against Barcelona. Liverpool will be even happy with a score-line reading 1-3 that would still add up to a aggregate of 6-5 in their favour.
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