Liverpool experience their first Champions League semi-final since 2008 when Roma visit Anfield on Tuesday, looking for a first-leg advantage.
Liverpool vs. Roma
Tuesday, April 24, 2018 – 7.45pm (BST)
Champions League Semi-Final First Leg
Referee: Felix Brych (GER)
Even the most positive Liverpool fan would struggle to have tipped the Reds to reach the last four of Europe’s biggest competition back in August.
It was always clear that they had quality in their ranks, and an impressive 3-0 pre-season win at Bayern Munich further raised expectations, but this has still been a surprise.
Klopp has turned his team into one of the most feared attacking outfits on the continent, and they are now favourites to reach the final in Kiev on May 26.
Standing between Liverpool and a place at the showcase event at the Olympic Stadium is a Roma side who are formidable in their own right.
They will feel as though their name is on the trophy after an incredible comeback against much-fancied Barcelona in the quarter-finals.
The Giallorossi have proven quality from front to back, and if Klopp’s men underestimate the third-placed Serie A side it could spell big trouble.
Newly crowned PFA Player of the Year Mohamed Salah faces his former club having blossomed into one of Europe’s best footballers, and his influence will be so key over the two legs.
By beating runaway Premier League champions Man City 5-1 on aggregate in the last round, Liverpool have shown they can beat anyone on their day, and they must approach Tuesday’s meeting with the same level of ruthlessness.
It is vital that they take a lead with them to Stadio Olimpico next Wednesday, in front of an Anfield crowd that will produce an unbelievable noise.
The biggest match in a decade? Quite possibly.
Klopp still has Joel Matip, Emre Can and Adam Lallana unavailable, while Nathaniel Clyne may also miss out through injury.
Dejan Lovren is fit to start, however, and the Croatian will come back in for Ragnar Klavan to partner Virgil van Dijk at centre-back.
Joe Gomez and Alberto Moreno were both poor in the 2-2 draw at West Brom on Saturday, so Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson are certainties to return to the team.
In midfield, Klopp has a slight selection headache, with four players battling for three starting berths.
The most likely trio appears to be Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but Gini Wijnaldum could easily feature.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is in a rich vein of form, and not starting him would be a big mistake, with the 24-year-old giving the midfield an extra dimension of late.
The wonderful front three of Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are all fit, and hold the key to Liverpool taking a lead to Rome.
Roma boss Eusebio Di Francesco has no new injury problems, but Rick Karsdorp and Gregoire Defrel are both missing.
Last 5 vs. Roma (All Competitions)
Liverpool 2-0 Roma – March 19, 2002 (Litmanen, Heskey)
Roma 0-0 Liverpool – December 5, 2001
Liverpool 0-1 Roma – February 21, 2001 (Guigou)
Roma 0-2 Liverpool – February 15, 2001 (Owen x2)
Liverpool 1-1 Roma (Liverpool won 4-2 on pens) – May 30, 1984 (Neal; Pruzzo)
Did You Know?
Liverpool have been in three Champions League semi-finals since the competition replaced the European Cup in 1992.
All three ties have been against Chelsea, with the Reds winning the first two, in 2005 and 2007, before the Blues got their revenge in 2008.
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
Drew 2-2 vs. West Brom
Won 3-0 vs. Bournemouth
Won 2-1 vs. Man City
Drew 0-0 vs. Everton
Won 3-0 vs. Man City
Roma – Last five results (all competitions)
Won 3-0 vs. Spal
Won 2-1 vs. Genoa
Drew 0-0 vs. Lazio
Won 3-0 vs. Barcelona
Lost 2-0 vs. Fiorentina
As touched upon, Roma are not a team Liverpool should be taking lightly—if you reach the semi-finals you clearly have something about you.
Di Francesco’s side got through a group containing Atletico Madrid, Chelsea and Qarabag, which further sums up their pedigree. They defeated the Blues 3-0 at home.
Roma then got the better of Shakhtar Donetsk on away goals in the last 16, before their staggering triumph over Barcelona in the quarters, overturning a 4-1 first-leg deficit to win 3-0 in the return fixture.
In Alisson, the Italian’s have one of the best goalkeepers in world football, with the 25-year-old keeping Man City stopper Ederson out of Brazil’s starting lineup ahead of this summer’s World Cup.
Goalscoring hero against Barcelona, Kostas Manolas, is an excellent centre-back, while Daniele De Rossi, Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman are a vastly experienced midfield trio.
Edin Dzeko has thrived at Roma, and his aerial presence and finishing ability will be a major threat to Liverpool’s back line over the two matches.
Predicted Roma starting XI (3-5-2): Alisson; Fazio, Manolas, Juan Jesus; Florenzi, Strootman, De Rossi, Nainggolan, Kolarov; Schick, Dzeko
Speaking to the press at Melwood on Monday, Klopp shrugged off the fact that this wasn’t necessarily the semi-final many predicted:
“People would have thought this semi-final would usually be Man City vs. Barcelona…but it’s not, because it’s football. We made it possible and Roma as well.
“I thought [Roma’s comeback would be] ‘not possible’, because the opposition is Barcelona, but I love the game because it is possible.
“We did something similar. It has been an outstanding season for City, but in these two games we deserved to win. Now, we play against each other.
“If anyone thinks we are the underdogs, who cares? We are in the semi-finals, we can go to the final, that’s all I care about.”
TV & Live Blog Info
The match is live on BT Sport 2 from 7pm (BST) with kickoff at 7.45pm.
Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard is sure to be a nervy figure in the studio, alongside Gary Lineker, Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard.
Ben Twelves will be in charge of our matchday live blog from 7pm, to talk you through what will hopefully be a great night at Anfield.