01 May 2018

Liverpool at AS Roma 05.02.18

Liverpool lead 5-2 on aggregate

2:45pm ET, live in the US on Fox Sports 1

CL results:
Liverpool: 5-2 Roma (h); 2-1 City (a); 3-0 City (h); 0-0 Porto (h); 5-0 Porto (a); 7-0 Spartak (h); 3-3 Sevilla (a); 3-0 Maribor (h); 7-0 Maribor (a); 1-1 Spartak (a); 2-2 Sevilla (h); 4-2 Hoffenheim (h); 2-1 Hoffenheim (a)
Roma: 2-5 Liverpool (a); 3-0 Barcelona (h); 1-4 Barcelona (a); 1-0 Shakhtar (h); 1-2 Shakhtar (a); 1-0 Qarabag (h); 0-2 Atletico (a); 3-0 Chelsea (h); 3-3 Chelsea (a); 2-1 Qarabag (a); 0-0 Atletico (h)

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Stoke (h); 5-2 Roma (a); 2-2 West Brom (a)
Roma: 4-1 Chievo (h); 2-5 Liverpool (a); 3-0 SPAL (a)

Goalscorers (Europe):
Liverpool: Firmino, Salah 11; Mané 8; Coutinho 5; Can 3; Alexander-Arnold, Oxlade-Chamberlain 2; Sturridge 1
Roma: Dzeko 7; Perotti 3; El Shaarawy, Manolas 2; de Rossi, Kolarov, Ünder 1

Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN)

Guess at a line-up:
Trent A-A Lovren van Dijk Robertson
Wijnaldum Henderson Milner
Salah Firmino Mané

Do the Champions League, just one more time. Okay, two more times.

This has been Liverpool's competition so far this season. Unbeaten. Top scorers. Liverpool weren't good in league matches prior to the first leg in Porto, both legs against City, and the last match against Roma. And they they went out and did the damned thing in Europe. As they did in the group stage against every side save Sevilla.

Liverpool may be down to three fit central midfielders, at best. Liverpool are still missing Can, Matip, and Oxlade-Chamberlain; Gomez hasn't traveled; and both Henderson and Alexander-Arnold are carrying knocks. Lallana's with the squad, but won't be available, and so are a bunch of kids who may well be needed: Woodburn, Jones, Masterson, Camacho.

But Liverpool can still do the damned thing. This is their competition. And they've got that front three.

So, yeah, Roma are good at home. They're not great in the league, with 11 wins, one draw, and six losses, but are great in the Champions League, where they're yet to concede. Four wins and a 0-0 draw with Atletico. They've scored three goals at home in six league matches and two European matches, most notably in the last round of the Champions League, that 3-0 win over Barcelona after losing the first leg 1-4. Where a late away goal gave them hope. Gulps, tugs collar, etc. The match that gives them confidence that they can do the same tomorrow. But also the match that gave them confidence that they could play three at the back against Liverpool as well.

I find it hard to believe that di Francesco will play anything other than 4-3-3 this time out.

Alisson; Florenzi, Fazio, Manolas, Kolarov; Gonalons, de Rossi, Nainggolan; Schick, Dzeko, Perotti. Maybe Ünder or El Shaarawy instead of Schick or Perotti. Gonalons or Pellegrini could replace the injured Strootman, or Perotti could play deeper with one of the other aforementioned attackers coming in. Perotti's questionable with injury as well, but should be available.

Roma simply has to go for it, early and often. Throw caution to the wind, etc. etc. And while Roma scored their opener against Barcelona in the 6th minute, they didn't get the second and third until the 58th (a penalty) and 82nd minutes. Cliche though this may be, it will be a 90-minute match. It won't be won by an early goal, for either side.

But if any side is going to score in Rome, it's this Liverpool side. Unbeaten in Europe this season, either home or away. Having scored in every match except a dead rubber v Porto, because Liverpool actually maintained their five-goal lead throughout that tie. They've scored at least three goals in eight of 13 Champions League matches, both home and away.

And while Roma seemingly have to play 4-3-3 this time, it'll still be a high line. There will still be waves of players going forward. Roma will need Kolarov and Florenzi to create from full-back. And there will be space for Liverpool to attack.

The last round against Manchester City, while terrifying at the time, seems helpful in retrospect. Liverpool had a three-goal lead. Liverpool conceded early. Liverpool looked likely to concede again. But Liverpool kept doing Liverpool, even if lucky to do so. And then Liverpool scored. And then Liverpool scored again.

This Liverpool side succeeds by scoring. Weather any early storm by any means necessary, but also immediately look to do you. Counter at pace, as often as possible. Press the opposition whenever possible, as high up the pitch as possible. Then get the ball to that front three. Get a goal, then get another. And don't stop until you're in the final.

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