Liverpool will host AS Roma in the all-important first leg of the Champions League semi-final
The Romans went beyond the bounds of possibility and kicked the Catalans into the pit of irrelevance just like Leonidas did the Persian messenger who came to wrench out meek surrender in Zack Snyder’s hyper-stylized epic.
Meanwhile, a certain Mohamed travelled all across Africa and took shelter in the cosy shrine of the Kop to chain the apparent juggernaut that was threatening to paint Europe blue.
Two underdogs, punched above their weights and in the collective confusion that ensued, one landed just about enough strikes to move the Spanish mountain and the other absolutely set their English adversaries on fire.
And tonight, when the unstoppable Liverpool meets the immovable AS Roma at the battleground of Anfield, expect nothing short of a riveting cracker.
Seeing as they eviscerated Manchester City across two legs and given that Mohamed Salah is in Messi/Cristiano-esque form, the Merseyside Reds are favourites to go through. But tell that to the Romans and they’ll show you photos of a distraught Leo Messi and Andres Iniesta who look like they’ve been hit by a thunderbolt that was originally gauged to hit an entirely different planet altogether.
Jurgen Klopp and Eusebio Di Francesco will pull out all stops to ensure a rare Champions League final appearance for their sides and we have no right to expect anything short of a tactical masterclass from either manager.
On that note, let’s take a look at how the teams should ideally line up tonight in this most anticipated tie:
Squad and Team News
Joel Matip was ruled out for the rest of the season and that’s probably the only tough piece of information Klopp has to encounter before the all-important first leg at Anfield.
Nathaniel Clyne is back in training and raring to go. However, Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has been in sublime form and dealt with the threat of Leroy Sane like it was Sunday morning chores, is expected to start against the Romans tonight. Clyne will be on the bench and he will need to outdo himself to claw back into this Liverpool lineup.
Jurgen Klopp had made as many as 5 changes to his preferred starting lineup and tonight, he will call all of his generals back into action. Alberto Moreno, who started against West Brom, will give way to Andy Robertson at left back.
Dejan Lovren, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Roberto Firmino should return to the starting lineup as well.
Rick Karsdorp and Gregoire Defrel have both been ruled out of contention due to a cruciate ligament injury and an ankle problem respectively. Other than that, AS Roma have a solid line of players to pick their starting lineup from.
Aleksander Kolarov will return to the left back position. Alessandro Florenzi, Daniele De Rossi and Edin Dzeko, all of whom were rested for the weekend encounter against SPAL, will return to the starting lineup tonight.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Loris Karius; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dejan Lovren, Virgil Van Dijk, Andrew Robertson; Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino
AS Roma (5-4-1): Alisson Becker; Aleksander Kolarov, Kostas Manolas, Juan, Federico Fazio, Alessandro Florenzi; Daniele De Rossi, Radja Nainggolan, Kevin Strootman, Cengiz Under; Edin Dzeko
As for Liverpool, this cannot be a surprise, it has to be Mohamed Salah. Even on his worst days, his finishing is world-class and he has taken it upon himself to prove that week in and week out now and we expect nothing short of yet another episode of the Egyptian King’s historic exploits in London as the Merseysiders take on the Romans.
Already crowned the PFA Player of the year, Mohamed Salah could take a huge step towards winning the prestigious Ballon d’Or if he can propel his team past Eusebio Di Francesco’s men.
For Roma, Edin Dzeko will be crucial to their chances. He has prior experience when it comes to playing in England with Manchester City and this is not too unfamiliar a territory for the 32-year-old Bosnian.
It will be interesting to see who comes out on top, almost literally, as he squares up against Virgil Van Dijk who knows this will be a test of a different kind.
This AS Roma side was able to stop FC Barcelona. In fact, that would be an understatement. The Romans properly dismantled the wheels of the Catalan chariot and send them rolling down the hills. And as for this Liverpool side, there seems to be no chaining their Fab 3.
Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane make up what is the best attacking trio in Europe and if AS Roma can wind them up like they did the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, then there is no predicting the outcome of this match.
That being said, Anfield is an absolute fortress if there ever was one. I expect Liverpool to clinch the victory tonight but that won’t happen by a huge margin.
Predicted scoreline: Liverpool 2-0 AS Roma