With Liverpool and AS Roma set to face off in the first of two Champions League semi-final matches on Tuesday night, we sought an expert view on what to expect from the Serie A club at Anfield and across the tie.
John Solano runs AS Roma Press, a website dedicated to the exploits of the Italian side, and last summer told us – with sublime prescience – that Mohamed Salah was ‘teetering on greatness’ as he completed a move to the Reds.
By a quirk of fate, the two teams now do battle for a place in the final of Europe’s elite club competition – after Jürgen Klopp’s men eliminated Manchester City and Roma produced a stunning comeback to defeat FC Barcelona in the last eight.
We caught up with John again for the lowdown on I Giallorossi’s recent form, key players and likely approach on Merseyside…
Can Roma fans believe what has happened in this Champions League run?
I think for many supporters it still feels like a dream and we’re waiting for someone to pinch us and wake us up. Roma’s performances this season in the Champions League have been sensational. While it is certainly surprising that they’ve made it this far into the competition, nobody can say that it’s undeserved.
Where does the comeback against Barcelona rank in the club’s recent history?
It’s undoubtedly up there in the pantheon of historical Roma performances. Roma’s history in the competition isn’t exactly illustrious so when a huge result such as this arrives, it almost immediately catapults itself into the top tier of moments in the club’s history.
Tell us about Eusebio Di Francesco and how he has changed Roma this season...
He’s changed Roma quite a bit this season. Beyond the tactical and technical changes, the biggest change we’ve seen from Roma, particularly in the Champions League, is their mentality. I Giallorossi have played with conviction that we haven’t seen in nearly a decade in Rome. Di Francesco has brought a stronger mentality as well as a much more balanced and organised side.
Roma have been excellent at home but lost three in a row away from home in the tournament. Is there a weakness there?
It’s really a head-scratcher because if you look at Roma’s away form in Serie A, it is actually much better than their home form. I do think Roma have some difficulties away from home but they’ve shown on big occasions that they can be up for it.
How do you expect them to line up at Anfield, in terms of both personnel and tactics?
This is really difficult to predict because in the second leg against Barcelona, that was the first time Eusebio Di Francesco opted to use a three-man defence, which is certainly something he could use again versus Liverpool. However, I do expect Di Francesco to opt for his preferred 4-3-3 formation with Alisson in goal, a defence consisting of Florenzi-Manolas-Fazio-Kolarov, a midfield three that includes Nainggolan-De Rossi-Strootman, and capped off with an attack of Cengiz Ünder-Dzeko-Perotti.
I do think Di Francesco will, as usual, try to take a balanced approach against Liverpool. I Giallorossi actually implemented this very well in the first leg against Barcelona; however, they were extremely unlucky as they conceded two own goals. Against Liverpool at Anfield, though, I don’t expect Roma to take many risks.
Who is Roma’s most important player?
Edin Dzeko. Roma have had big problems finding the back of the net this season and the Bosnian No.9 has almost single-handedly carried the attack. Dzeko is without question the focal point of Eusebio Di Francesco’s attacking approach.
How do Roma fans feel about Salah and his performances this season?
Roma supporters still hold Mo in high regard. He was an extremely popular player in Rome and always honoured the shirt. I don’t think many are surprised by his performances this season because he was sensational during his two years at the club and showed he had the ability to be a world-class attacker.
What is your prediction for this game, and the tie as a whole?
This is extremely difficult: the heart says one thing while the head says another. My heart undoubtedly says that Roma have the ability to knock out Liverpool, especially after what they showed against Barcelona; however, my head says Liverpool’s potent attack could prove too much. I think the Reds will win the first leg by a score of 3-1. However, anything could happen in Rome – as we saw against Barcelona.
Danny Ings is certain the collective will of Liverpool's players and fans can combine to launch the club into the Champions League final.
AS Roma stand in the way of an eighth appearance in the showpiece of Europe’s elite competition for the Reds, with the first leg of their last-four tie set to take place at Anfield on Tuesday night.
Jürgen Klopp’s team have progressed through the tournament without defeat to date and no side can match the 33 goals plundered during the group stage and two knockout clashes.
Ahead of the initial meeting with Roma, Ings offered insight on the mentality within the Liverpool dressing room – namely, that their justified confidence is offset by the understanding that they simply have to produce again.
“We deserve to go all the way, with how well we’ve done and the teams we’ve had to go past on the way,” the striker, who ended his 930-day wait for a goal on Saturday, told Liverpoolfc.com.
“But there’s still a lot of work to do. The lads are hungry, you can see it every day – and I’m not just talking about the Champions League, I’m talking about the Premier League. The lads are hungry every day in training.
“We all want to be successful. It’s unbelievable to be a part of. Hopefully that hard work and determination, plus our quality, can take us all the way.”
As it was in the quarter-final clash with Manchester City, the Anfield atmosphere is certain to be a contributory factor to the events of the first leg.
“It’s quite hard to describe because I’ve never been part of anything like it before,” said Ings.
“The atmosphere as you’re playing, for every minute, is just exceptional. It is credit to Liverpool and credit to the fans – they want it so bad and it really does help us.
“It’s important to be focused and we’re all together as one and give it our all, because this is a great opportunity in front of us and it’s important we take it with both hands.”
Roma booked their place in the semi-finals with one of the greatest comebacks of recent years.
Trailing 4-1 from the first leg of their tie against FC Barcelona, the Serie A side shut out the Spaniards – maintaining their record of having not conceded at home in the Champions League this term – and scored the three they needed to go through via the away goals rule.
And nobody within the Reds camp is underestimating Eusebio Di Francesco’s outfit.
“We knew that any team we drew in the Champions League was going to be very tough. And I think Roma are going to be very difficult; Italian teams are always tactically very, very good,” added Ings.
“So it’s going to be hard to break them down. But, with our quality and our work-rate, it’s going to be a very exciting tie for sure. It is all about the preparation, the training and, mentally, taking it like it’s any other game. And hopefully we’ll get through to the final.”
Last Updated: 23/04/18 11:04pmJurgen Klopp says Liverpool's semi final is not a 'once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity
Jurgen Klopp has likened Liverpool's habit of blowing teams away in concentrated spells to Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United sides.
Liverpool scored three goals in 19 first-half minutes to take their Champions League quarter-final tie away from Manchester City, ultimately winning the tie 5-1 on aggregate.
Klopp looks set to employ a similar tactic when they welcome Roma to Anfield for their semi-final first leg on Tuesday, after admitting he wants to use it to the same effect as rivals Manchester United in the 1990s and 2000s.
"Is there something with Alex Ferguson, Man United," said Klopp. "At a specific time they scored always twice?Manchester United won the 1999 Champions League final with two stoppage-time goals
"Score, score? That is the opportunity. Score once, do it again. Use the momentum in the game. Of course we talk about it, of course we want to use that, but you still have to score.
"The team is a really enthusiastic team. In a good moment, they jump and that's really good to see.
"On the other hand, that's why the two Man City games were really special. We dealt with the very difficult circumstances in the two halves here and there on a high level.
"That brought us to the semis, not that we can score one, two, three in a row.
"In the moments when we are not in charge of the game, we are still in the game, that's a very important thing and that helped us massively."Klopp was unable to stop laughing when listening to the Italian translator at his press conference Klopp was unable to stop laughing when listening to the Italian translator at his press conference
Klopp insists Liverpool's chance to reach a Champions League final should not be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in what will be their first semi-final in Europe's elite club competition for a decade.
He said: "I make the pressure higher? I tell them it's the only chance you ever have in your life so use it. Would you love to hear that before a game?
"(It's) not a once-in-the-lifetime chance. I am already for the second time in the semi-finals and if I go, I will be the second time in the final. That's pretty rare."Tuesday's Super 6
Could you be the next Super 6 £250k jackpot winner? Enter your predictions for free here.
Long-term absentees aside, Jürgen Klopp oversaw preparations for the Champions League semi-final first leg against AS Roma with a full squad.
Liverpool’s training session on the eve of the clash at Anfield featured all of the players not already suffering an extended spell on the sidelines, including right-back Nathaniel Clyne after he missed Saturday’s trip to West Bromwich Albion due to a muscle issue.
Mohamed Salah immediately re-joined his teammates in their preparations after travelling to London to collect the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award on Sunday night.
The Egypt international, who spent two seasons with Roma before signing for Liverpool, and Roberto Firmino are the only players to have featured in all of the Reds’ 12 European fixtures this season.
Emre Can and Adam Lallana remain out of action, while Joel Matip will not play again in 2017-18.
Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco was coy on a potential starting XI and system for the game at Anfield during his pre-match press conference at the stadium on Monday evening.
But he did reveal his intention to make a straight decision between Cengiz Under and Patrik Schick for one of the spots in his attacking set-up for the first leg.
“I don’t like to talk about the line-up,” the Italian, whose side eliminated FC Barcelona in the previous round, told the media. “Under against Schick, one of the two will play tomorrow – it’s a 50-50 issue.
“[We have] two systems of play, a four or three-man defence and I’ll decide depending on the rival. The most important thing is the philosophy, to have the same idea of going forward and defending.”
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.Team News
In midfield, Klopp has a slight selection headache, with four players battling for three starting berths.
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.
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)
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.Form
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
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, DzekoKlopp’s View
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.
Big guns back, Oxlade-Chamberlain or Wijnaldum to start? – Predicting Liverpool’s lineup for first leg vs. Roma
The moment has finally arrived.
The build-up is done, anticipation is at boiling point and the Reds now begin the final push to earn a shot at winning European Cup No.6.
The tie reignites a historic rivalry with Roma, who the Reds famously defeated in Rome to win No.4 back in 1984, and the Italians will see this as a chance to finally take long-awaited revenge.
But this is undoubtedly a winnable tie for the Reds and after making changes at West Brom, Klopp will restore his big guns to take the game to Eusebio Di Francesco’s men.
Those changes at the Hawthorns gave big clues as to what the lineup will be on Tuesday, so here is how Liverpool are likely to start.Team News
[embedded content]Liverpool’s XI vs. Roma
Klopp’s selection at West Brom near enough confirmed the starting XI for the first leg, with those rotated nailed on to come back in.
We will certainly see Alexander-Arnold, Robertson and Lovren all return to defence, with Virgil van Dijk the only survivor from Saturday’s draw with the Baggies.
You can also say with 100 per cent certainty that Firmino will be back in the front three along with Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, who will be looking to grab his 42nd goal of the season against his former club.
And after being rested on Saturday Oxlade-Chamberlain seems likely to enter midfield, but this leaves an interesting decision for Klopp in how to reshape the vital central unit.
The boss will know the Reds need another dominant first leg performance to ensure there’s an advantage to take to Italy.
So this could persuade Klopp to go with the same high-energy, aggressive midfield that dominated Man City in the Anfield quarter-final.
This would see the all English trio of Henderson, Milner and Oxlade-Chamberlain start in an attempt to overpower the visitors, with Gini Wijnaldum on the bench.
With no viable or logical alternative defensive and attacking selections, it is only midfield where Klopp faces a genuinely tough decision.
And rather than mirroring his approach against City, the boss could take a different route by fielding a more solid, controlling midfield featuring Wijnaldum.
Klopp could favour the Dutchman’s composure and a calming influence, while holding Oxlade-Chamberlain’s attacking drive and power in reserve to be introduced when Roma tire.
A more conservative, but just as capable, Reds lineup could look like this:
Regardless of how Klopp shapes his midfield, both selections are extremely strong and capable of earning the vital first-leg lead needed to take to the Italian capital.
Mohamed Salah can't wait to reacquaint with old friends when Liverpool face his former club AS Roma in the Champions League semi-finals.
The 25-year-old spent two seasons in the Italian capital prior to his move to Anfield, becoming a firm fan favourite over the course of his 83 appearances.
As such, an emotional reunion awaits Salah when he comes up against his old teammates to compete for a place in the final of Europe's premier cup competition over two legs.
The Egyptian is already looking forward to the tie, but insists sentiment won't get in the way of his desire to progress.
He told Premier League Productions: "I played for Roma for two years, I had a great time with the club, with the fans, I fought for the club and now I have to play against them.
"We text each other, as players, every week - we're still good friends.
"I'm very excited to go there and I love the fans, they love me, [there are] more emotions.
"I hope we are going to win but also I wish them good luck."
Salah stands just three games from capping his debut campaign at Anfield with the biggest prize in European football, and the significance of the opportunity ahead is not lost on the winger.
He added: "It's something huge if you win the Champions League for a club like Liverpool.
"It's something different for us as players, for the city, for the fans, for everyone, I am sure we will fight for that 100 per cent."
Shortly after arriving in Liverpool on Monday afternoon, the AS Roma squad visited Anfield to pay their respects to those who lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster, in a touching gesture.
The Italian club’s entire travelling squad and staff visited the memorial to the 96 children, women and men who were unlawfully killed in the 1989 tragedy.
There, they laid a wreath and took a few moments to remember those who died at Hillsborough.
The Reds head into their first Champions League semi-final for a decade on the back of the 41-goal Egypt international being crowned PFA Player of the Year.
Salah’s success has contributed in a large part to the January departure of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for £142million barely being mentioned let alone felt by the team.
However, manager Jurgen Klopp did admit the Brazil international’s exit was painful, saying: “We lost Phil Coutinho – that is not a hobby, it doesn’t even feel like fun.”
But until the Reds, five-time winners of the European Cup, become a consistent force in Europe again they always leave themselves open to the possibility of more successful clubs picking off their best players.
Henderson hopes Tuesday night’s Champions League semi-final first leg at home to Roma will be a stepping stone to that situation changing.
“He’s up there with the world’s best so obviously there will be other clubs who want to take him away,” said Henderson, who revealed he voted for Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne – Salah’s main rival – for the PFA award.
“But I feel like he’s in a great place with a great set of lads and a great manager going in the right direction.
“We want to create our own history here and I’m sure that Mo wants to be part of that. He’s a big part of that now and I’m sure he will be for many years to come.
“He’s been fantastic throughout the season. His record and his stats speaks for themselves.
“He’s been a massive player for us this season and hopefully he can continue that form over the next few weeks.”
Henderson heads into arguably his biggest game as Liverpool captain, having been an unused substitute in the Europa League final defeat to Sevilla two years ago as he was not fully fit.
He is therefore keen to make the most of this opportunity, and others he hopes will come their way under Klopp’s guidance.
“Since the manager came to the club we’ve improved every season,” he added.
“I feel as though I’ve improved a lot since he came to the football club and hopefully I can improve a lot more over the next few years.
“He’s one of the best managers in the world. Tactically, it goes without saying how knowledgeable he is within the game.
“Off the field, he’s a fantastic human. Very genuine and has great passion for football which transcends throughout the team.
“He always keeps you on your toes, he’s always pushing you to improve, he’s always maintaining high standards.
“He’s an amazing manager and everyone in the squad feels privileged to be working with him.
“Hopefully this is the start of something special with this squad. It’s a huge game.”
Jurgen Klopp and his coaches put the Liverpool players through their paces on the evening before their semi-final first leg clash against AS Roma.
The Reds know they will again require a big effort and top-class performance at Anfield, with a trip to Rome on the horizon.
A place in the Champions League final is up for grabs and tempting to think about, but the manager has continually preached the importance of focusing on the current job.
The key decision for Klopp will come in midfield, though captain Jordan Henderson should start and took part in the pre-match press conference.
What is for certain is that Mohamed Salah will be in the starting lineup, fresh from winning the Player of the Year award and having scored 41 goals this season. He’ll face his former side on Tuesday evening.
While the starting XI might be straightforward to choose from, there will also be a battle for the spots on the bench.
It’s the biggest night of the season for the Reds and Klopp’s team selection will go a long way toward determining how successful Liverpool can be.Liverpool squad
Goalkeepers: Karius, Mignolet, Ward
Defenders: Van Dijk, Lovren, Klavan, Masterson, Clyne, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Robertson, Moreno
Midfielders: Henderson, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wijnaldum, Woodburn, Jones
Forwards: Salah, Firmino, Mane, Ings, Solanke, Camacho
Jordan Henderson is readying himself for one of the biggest games of his career tomorrow evening as Liverpool face AS Roma in the first leg of the sides' Champions League semi-final.
And the captain is determined to ensure he takes only good memories from Tuesday's Anfield clash by helping to secure a result that ultimately sees Jürgen Klopp's team into the tournament's final.
Henderson had made just five European Cup appearances in six seasons with the club prior to this term - all of which came during a forgettable 2014-15 campaign that ended in a group-stage exit.
As such, tomorrow's fixture represents a personal landmark for the midfielder, one he does not want to end in disappointment.
He told Liverpoolfc.com: "It's one of, if not the biggest game [of my career]. The semi-finals of the Champions League at Anfield, it doesn't get much bigger than that really.
"It'll be a huge night and we want to remember it after for the right reasons in terms of the atmosphere but, most important, the result as well.
"It's a big game for us but hopefully it's the first of many big games to come in the next few years."
Liverpool claimed an ultimately unassailable three-goal lead in the first leg of their quarter-final tie against Manchester City thanks in no small part to the efforts of a partisan Anfield crowd.
And Henderson expects more of the same from the home support when Roma come to town.
He added: "I'm excited just to go out and play in front of the fans at Anfield, it will be an incredible atmosphere.
"You see the fans, you pull up at Anfield and it's a special occasion, it really gets you going.
"When you're pulling up here on the bus and the fans are outside singing, it's an amazing feeling getting ready for the game."
Despite the convincing manner of Liverpool's win in the last round, Henderson does not believe the order of the ties - first leg on Merseyside, second in Italy - is necessarily an advantage.
The skipper is also anticipating a different test from Eusebio Di Francesco's side to that posed by the Premier League champions.
"You can swing it round both ways, to be honest," he declared.
"At the end of the day, it's two games of football and you've got to go and try and win them both, as difficult as that will be against a very good side.
"You've just got to go out there and stay focused on what your job is, take it step-by-step, [play] the first game and then focus on the second leg afterwards.
"It's a different side, different players, different manager, different way of playing, so they'll ask different questions.
"We've got to make sure we're ready for them, and we [ask] them questions as well, like I know we can.
"If we do that then hopefully it can put us in a good position going to Rome."
Liverpool were in training on Monday evening ahead of the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Serie A side AS Roma.
The Reds conducted a session at Melwood 24 hours before they host the Italian club in the opening match of a tie that has a place in the European Cup showpiece as its prize.
Take a look at how Jürgen Klopp's team have been preparing for the clash with our gallery from the training ground below.
Photos by John Powell