Real Madrid is already into the Champions League final. It would appear that Liverpool has one foot in the match as well, but there are 90 minutes more to take care of before that is for sure.
The Reds hold a 5-2 first-leg advantage after stomping Roma at the Kop, but it’s that 1 that has fans worried. After a stunning first 70 minutes that looked to be the best Liverpool performance maybe in years, the final 20 ticks were nervy, ruining the clean sheet and giving the second leg in the Italian capital more than a smidge of intrigue.
Can Roma do it again?
The Italian club stunned runaway La Liga champions Barcelona just last round, reversing a 4-1 first-leg deficit and winning the second meeting 3-0 and advancing on away goals. Now, they’ll need a repeat performance of that once-in-a-generation comeback, a task so tall considering Liverpool’s form.
But Barcelona was in good form too. In fact, they haven’t lost all season in league play, a stunning invincible record that has seen them already confirmed as league champions. Somehow, Roma kept Lionel Messi and company out of the net and grabbed the three goals required to advance.
And yet, if Barcelona was a mountain to climb, this is Kilimanjaro. The Reds feature Mohamed Salah, a player not only in contention for Premier League Player of the Season, but also maybe in the best form of any attacker in the world. If Liverpool scores once, Roma would need four. If Liverpool scores twice, Roma would need six, effectively ending the tie.
Reds manager Jurgen Klopp thinks that while Barcelona may have been naive, Liverpool certainly is not, thanks to red flags from the comeback in the previous round. “Barcelona thought probably that it’s decided,” he said. “Everybody is telling us that it’s possible for Roma to beat us 3-0 or 4-0. Nobody told Barcelona. Not that I needed it but, we have the warning.”
The main scoring threat for Roma could come in the form of former Premier League striker Edin Dzeko. The Bosnia & Herzegovina international will play against Liverpool for the 13th time in his career across all competitions, the most against any team he has ever faced, level with Bayern Munich. He has four goals in those games, but Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco expects big things from their leader.
“All the players need to feel responsible and be pleased about that [feeling],” Di Francesco said in his pre-match press conference. “As coach, I’m pleased to have this responsibility, but the players are the ones doing it on the pitch. Even more so with Dzeko – I hope he can be our Salah from the first leg, so he can pull things back and determine a great comeback. A player of his quality, ability – it’s right that he has this responsibility.”
Part of winning the Champions League is shocking the world, part of it is overcoming adversity, but part of it is also taking care of business. That is what Liverpool need to do on Wednesday, with kickoff from Stadio Olimpico at 2:45 p.m. ET. If they complete the performance, a date with Real Madrid in the final awaits – a worthy adversary expected to prevail but also with plenty of fallacies. That opportunity will not come if they do not take care of business.