My introduction to Two Foot Talk began with my staunch support of the third place Serie A side and their dismantling of Barca in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals. One of our fearless leaders @StanWhyte87 is a diehard Liverpool supporter and I am sure he will have something to say leading up to the match.
We all know the big question coming into this game, how the hell can Roma stop its former star? The honest truth? They won’t. Mo Salah has been far and away one of the best players in Europe this season not skipping a beat in any game. I do not expect that to change, Salah will Salah for both legs of this semi final and there is not a damn thing that Roma can do about it. The Roma back line will most definitely have their hands full.
Young Leg got into his predictions a bit earlier in the week and one thing that I disagree with is that Prem squads have trouble against the Italians. For the most part this is true, but Liverpool, in my opinion, have always been a different animal, and they can certainly pull off an Italian Job, or two (ask Stan). However, there are several aspects to these two games that can help to secure Roma’s place in the Final.
- Away Goals— It’s the Champions League semis. Two legs, winner moves advances on aggregate, away goals are the tie-breaker. Roma must come away from Anfield with at least a goal. This may be the one of the most crucial elements to Roma finding a way into the Final against Madrid (Yes, Madrid will be in the Final, pencil it in). Now scoring at Anfield will most certainly prove to be difficult, especially if Karius is starting in net. The man has 6 clean sheets in the Champions League thus far.
- Tactical Discipline— Roma must not lose their defensive shape against this high powered Liverpool attack. The likes of Firmino, Salah, Mane, Lallana, and even the Ox are capable of creating magic at any time. As stated before stopping Salah will be extremely difficult, but too much focus on the Egyptian will most certainly leave the Wolves exposed the finishing ability of those other lads. If Klopp goes with 3 forwards then Kolorov, Peres, and Florenzi will have their hands full getting up in the attack and back to defend against Mane and Salah. Salah is going to do his thing, there is no doubt about that, but Roma cannot let anyone else, but Salah, to hurt them. The three centerbacks, Manolas in particular, will have to play lights out defense. Expect one helluva showdown between the Greek God and the Egyptian God. Roma must also maintain discipline when it comes to tackling, their captain in particular. De Rossi has been known to snap a leg or two from time to time and he is the engine that drives this Roma squad. He, and Roma, cannot afford to get themselves into card trouble early. Yes the Wolves need to have a physical presence but not one that forces them eventually sit back and absorb pressure.
- Experience: Roma has to take advantage of all the veterans they have available. The likes of Dzeko, de Rossi, Florenzi, Manolas, Nainggolan, and Kolorov all have valuable years of big games under their belt and they need to come out and show it. Liverpool are not by any means a squad that lacks experience, I just feel that comparing the two Roma definitely have a better chance of playing composed. That being said, age can also go the other way. It will be interesting to see how this particular key plays out in the second leg. Dzeko has to be the driving force in getting goals, much like he was during the second leg of the Barca fixture. If Dzeko is able to have his way with the likes of Van Dijk and others then Liverpool will have a tough time.
- Goalkeeping: Alisson has been one of the goalies who has played extremely well this season and I wouldn’t be shocked if Roma sold him during the summer. He has held a total of 18 clean sheets, 5 of those coming in the Champions League, and none more important than the last one against Barca. On the other hand, Karius has also played extremely well in the Champions League this season managing to one up Alisson with 6 clean sheets. I know that most people are expecting goals galore, especially from this Liverpool squad.
- Defending: That brings me to my final key for Rome dominating the English (yes another history reference). Defense, which is where I think Roma has clear advantage. Roma, like any other Italian squad, are master defenders. Liverpool however, have been exposed throughout the season and I do not expect that to change. Roma needs to defend like the Italian squad they are and rely on quick counter attacks to catch the Reds out. With de Rossi captaining the squad I do not think that defending well will be a problem for Roma. If Roma defends like I know they can Liverpool will ultimately start pressing for goals and allow themselves to be exposed.
This should be one hell of a Champions League semi-final. The draws that allowed for this to happen may have been a bit shady, but I think this allows for four great games. Roma needs to hit all the aforementioned areas in order to find themselves a date with the Spanish giants.
Roma advances on aggregate (2-2). Away goals matter.
These are the wise words of Ty Bond if you don’t agree go chat shit with him on twitter @tybond16