Liverpool have work to do before Salah, Mane, Firmino can rest for Roma

Published on: 13 April 2018

Liverpool's Dejan Lovren would prefer a Champions League semi final tie with either Bayern Munich or Roma - saving Real Madrid for the final.

So, Roma it is then. On paper it is the most favourable draw for Liverpool, although playing the second leg away from home is not ideal, particularly as this week the Italians turned around a 1-4 deficit on home soil to eliminate mighty Barcelona. They also beat Chelsea 3-0 in Rome earlier this season, so it's a difficult place to go.

Having comprehensively swept aside FC Porto and Manchester City, though, Liverpool have no need to fear anybody, least of all a team that sits in fourth place in Serie A. But in some respects it might have been easier for them had they drawn either of Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.

Liverpool are at their best when teams attack them and leave space for them to exploit with their blistering speed up front. Madrid would certainly do that, while Jurgen Klopp knows all there is to know about Bayern and would feel confident of beating them. Roma will go into the game as underdogs and might play it a lot more cagey, particularly knowing how dangerous Liverpool are in attack.

Including the qualifying round against Hoffenheim, Klopp's side have scored 39 goals in Europe this season. It's an impressive tally and one which the Red half of Merseyside has been using as a stick with which to beat the Blue half, as Everton haven't even managed that many in the Premier League despite having played 20 more games.

City were arguably the strongest team in the competition and Liverpool disposed of them relatively easily, so they go into the semifinals with great confidence. A second leg in the Olympic Stadium in Rome, however, will be a whole different ballgame to the relatively sedate atmosphere of the Etihad, and Roma will rightly believe that they too can beat anybody. After coming back the way they did against Barcelona, they may even feel that their name is on the trophy.

They also have history with Liverpool and several scores to settle. The Reds famously beat them in their own backyard to win the competition after a dramatic penalty shootout in 1984. You never really get over a defeat like that, but to compound things further they were also controversially knocked out of the UEFA Cup by the Reds in 2001. Having lost their home leg 2-0, Roma won 1-0 at Anfield but were left seething after the referee awarded them a penalty and then changed his mind.

A year later they were eliminated from the Champions League following a 2-0 defeat at Anfield in the final group fixture. Roma have no good memories of facing Liverpool and will be keen to put that right this time.

Mohamed Salah will face his former team in the Champions League semifinals.

And if all that isn't enough motivation for the Italians, there's the small matter of the Reds taking Mohamed Salah from them last summer in what now looks like a case of daylight robbery. Roma's need to comply with UEFA's financial fair play rules left them vulnerable and Liverpool took advantage of that by landing Salah for less than £40 million.

In fairness to both clubs, this was before the Neymar transfer completely skewed the market and at the time, there were even some who felt Roma got the better of the deal. Salah has made a mockery of that view with 39 goals already this season and he represents the greatest danger to his former club.

Before Liverpool can resume their attempt at winning this year's Champions League, though, there is the small matter of securing qualification for next year's tournament.

Klopp's men entertain Bournemouth on Saturday knowing that victory would put them on the brink of securing a top-four spot. The Reds need just eight more points to guarantee they would finish above Chelsea, but if Chelsea fail to win in their six remaining games, then that number of course drops further.

Three points this weekend would go a long way toward making their position safe, so although Klopp may well make some changes, it's unlikely he will be resting too many of his key men.

Nathaniel Clyne, Ragnar Klavan, Alberto Moreno, Jordan Henderson and Danny Ings may all come into contention for a starting place, but until that top four place is in the bag, Klopp will be taking nothing for granted.

With no midweek game next week, the need to rotate is not as pressing as it was last weekend, when Liverpool played a Merseyside derby that was sandwiched in between the two-legged tie with City. The front three have played a lot of football of late though, so any opportunity to give any of them a breather should be seriously considered.

Against Everton, neither Ings nor Dominic Solanke did anything to suggest they could adequately fill in, but it would be unfair to write them off solely based on one game, particularly as neither had started for a long time. Expect Klopp to go strong this weekend and if all goes well, he may look to get some of his key men off early.

A win this weekend is vital because ideally Klopp would want to make sweeping changes for the upcoming games with West Brom and Stoke to ensure everyone is rested and raring to go against Roma. If points are dropped against Bournemouth, it would be far more difficult to do that, so this is a bigger game for Liverpool than perhaps some people realise.

Dave Usher is one of ESPN's Liverpool bloggers and the founder of LFC fanzine and website The Liverpool Way. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.


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