Five Roma players who Liverpool should watch out for in both legs of their Champions League semi-final.
Following the UEFA Champions League semi-final draw, a lot has been said on the emphasis of Liverpool and Roma battling it out on Europe’s forefront. “We’re already into the final,” some fans posted on Twitter after the draw was made in Nyon a couple of weeks ago.
Yes, fans may be relieved at the fact the Reds didn’t draw one of the European powerhouses in Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, but supporters should not underestimate the Italian giants, even though they do not have the same successes as the Galacticos and the Bavarians.
There is no doubt the famous victory over Barcelona will only spur on Eusebio Di Francesco’s side ahead of the tie against Jurgen Klopp’s Reds, but it is important that both the fans and the players do not get overconfident ahead of the tie.
Roma pose a good blend of youth and experience, which some would say will benefit them. This is a side that has beaten Atletico Madrid and Chelsea in the group stages and knocked out Barcelona in the quarterfinals – you don’t get to this stage without beating some of the best.
Here are five players Liverpool should watch out for.
#5 Cengiz Under (Forward)
A replacement for Mohamed Salah, the Turkish youngster joined Roma from Istanbul Basaksehir last summer. He has failed to hit the ground at present since joining the club, but comes off the bench and is becoming an impact player, hence his seven goals all campaign.
He has great potential, and at 20 has plenty of time to develop and become an important member of Eusebio Di Francesco’s team going forward. He could be a dangerous card in Roma’s pack coming off the bench against the Reds.
Scoring in Roma’s first leg against Shakhtar Donetsk and providing the assist for Kostas Manolas’ equalizer against Barcelona, he has played a bit part but vital role in his side’s progression to the semi-finals.
Quick and very skillful, he can play central, but mostly operates on the right-wing to cut onto his lethal left foot, similar to Salah.
#4 Radja Nainggolan (Midfielder)
The Belgium international likes to get forward and join the attack. Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman protect him, which allows him to do this.
A tough tackler, he likes to find a key pass but has also scored a total of 4 goals and produced 8 assists so far this campaign. He has the experience to help his team stay compact in centre midfield. Every team needs a solid midfielder and somebody who is a tough tackler and that is something Roma have with Nainggolan.
Experience is always a plus and with the 29-year-old and De Rossi the Serie A side certainly have that. He has previously been linked a move to Manchester United and Chelsea.
#3 Federico Fazio (Defender)
Remember him? The former Tottenham centre-back is having a fine campaign in the heart of the Giallorossi’s defence this season.
The 31-year-old Argentine has rediscovered his form in the Italian capital and will sit alongside the highly talented Greek international Kostas Manolas, whose goal knocked out Barcelona.
They have both played more games than any other defender in Serie A and the Champions League this season but will have the tough task of trying to stop the Reds formidable trio of Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane. At 6’5” and having won 77% of his aerial duels in the Champions League, the Reds will have to go around Fazio rather than over him.
#2 Edin Dzeko (Striker)
Without a doubt, Edin Dzeko will pose a threat to the Liverpool backline of Virgil van Dijk and Dejan Lovren. At the age of 32, he still is a great finisher and imposes himself well in the air.
He averages three aerial duels won per game and has netted on 20 occasions in all competitions this season, with six of them coming in this season’s UEFA Champions League.
Being the ultimate target man, the Bosnian allows the like of Lorenzo Pellegrini, Diego Perotti, and Stephan El Shaarawy drift past him out wide. This then provides the ammunition he needs.
The former Manchester City striker can hold the ball up, play with his back to goal, and get runners involved. The Reds may have only conceded seven goals in the past 11 games, but Lovren loses one out of four aerial duels per game in the Champions League, so Dzeko could target Lovren as the weak link.
Liverpool will have to be on guard to stop him returning to haunt them.
#1 Alisson Becker (Goalkeeper)
Having been heavily linked with a move to Anfield, the Reds will need to be at there most clinical should they beat on of the most impressive goalkeeper in the world. The 25-year-old Brazil international will be Tite’s No.1 in Russia this summer.
With excellent reflexes, he has made a total of 3.1 saves per game in all competitions in comparison to Loris Karius who has makes 1.7 saves per game – so Salah and co must be clinical when opportunities arise.
A good distributor of the ball, Klopp will surely be running the rule over Alisson and be casting an eye on him, in both legs and at this summer’s World Cup.