23 Apr Liverpool v Roma – talking points
Liverpool host Roma in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Tuesday.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at some of the issues.
Unstoppable Mohamed Salah
Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco insists he has not sought the advice of Mohamed Salah’s former team-mates at the Serie A club on how to stop the Egypt international but he would be advised to come up with a plan. The newly-crowned Professional Footballers’ Association player of the year has found the net in each of the last nine games at Anfield in league and cup in which he has started, scoring 14 times in that run, and he has scored on 32 of the 46 matches he has played this campaign, one short of setting a new club record. This season’s 41-goal tally has already eclipsed the 34 in 83 appearances he made in two seasons at Roma. His pace makes him a huge threat on the counter-attack but it is his proficiency in front of goal which has elevated him to the next level with an incredible 35 goals coming in his last 34 games. He averages a goal every 92 minutes in the Champions League and has a better conversion rate that the competition’s top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo.
The advantage of the power of Anfield can be debated but there is no doubt it is a special place on European nights and that is reflected in their results. They have lost only one (against Real Madrid in October 2014) of the last 20 European matches at home and are unbeaten at home in the last 15, winning 10 and drawing five. Of the 17 European semi-finals they have played at Anfield, the Reds have won 13, drawn three and lost just one – to Leeds in the 1971 Fairs Cup. They have won eight and drawn one of the last nine at home. Seven of those semi-finals were the first leg, where Liverpool’s record is four wins, two draws and one defeat and they ultimately progressed on four occasions, winning the final three times. Overall, on the 49 occasions they have played a knockout first leg at home they have had advanced 38 times.
Hope for Roma?
West Brom exposed Liverpool with two goals from set-pieces in the 2-2 Premier League draw at the weekend and the defence looked susceptible from crosses. However, the caveat to that was it was against a previously-untested back four with Alberto Moreno, Ragnar Klavan and Joe Gomez all bit-part players recently, who will not start on Tuesday. The addition of Virgil van Dijk has made a significant difference but if Roma are looking to exploit an area of weakness this may be their best option. Edin Dzeko, at 6ft 3in, would appear most likely to benefit the most and the former Manchester City striker has already shown his appetite for an occasion as his early goal was the catalyst for their shock 3-0 quarter-final second-leg win which eliminated Barcelona.
Spotlight on supporters
The Champions League quarter-final at home to Manchester City was marred by bottles and cans being thrown by a small minority as the visitors’ coach drove to the stadium. It has become something of a tradition ahead of big games for supporters to welcome the Liverpool players in their thousands with smoke canisters and flares on the approach to Anfield but events over-stepped the mark last time out. Police have said they are expecting a “vibrant” atmosphere but have warned they will take action against “individuals who may seek to cause problems or misbehave”. There is likely to be an increased security presence on the streets to prevent repeat scenes but – with a UEFA fine likely for the trouble against City – the onus is on the fans to police themselves.