Tuesday, April 24 – 7:45p.m Local time – Anfield, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Liverpool’s pursuit of its only realistic piece of silverware this season will see them play host to AS Roma on Tuesday night in the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League.
The Reds — who have been unplayable this season on the European front — have the upper hand, having been drawn at home for the first leg, as they serve the chance of taking full effect of the incalculable nature of the away goal rule during the reverse fixture scheduled for next week.
Jurgen Klopp’s men were enthusiastic of maintaining their pursuit of second place in the English Premier League over the weekend, as they made the trip to the West Midlands to face bottom-placed West Bromwich Albion.
The Liverpool boss effected five changes to the starting eleven, electing to rest key players with his sights fully set on the midweek Champions League brawl with Roma.
The mere fact that Jurgen Klopp began with Danny Ings upfront, a player who was only receiving his second Premier League start since the German took over the reins of power at Anfield two and a half years ago, spoke volumes of just how lightweight he deemed the opposition at the Hawthorns.
The Reds began the match in their usual element of optimism and intent, as they comfortably dictated proceedings during the opening exchanges; Danny Ings justifying his call up by finding the back of the net after just four minutes.
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Sadio Mane and James Milner worked out a short corner before the former laid a low cross to Georginio Wijnaldum, who teed off Ings to ram it in from eight yards.
Tears welled up for the English striker in the celebrations, and understandably so, as it was only his first goal since October 2015, having spent much of the period in rehabilitation due to injury.
As soon as Liverpool had their noses in front, all indications pointed to a one sided romp, as the hosts were penned in their own half, with the visitors enjoying the lion’s share of possession.
An all too familiar soporific first half at the Hawthorns carried on after the interval, as the Baggies conceded a second goal through Mohamed Salah in the 72nd minute.
West Brom have been a club in a state of disarray this season, having witnessed four managerial changes that has seen them spend much of the current campaign at the foot of the table.
Nonetheless, the Baggies yet again under the stewardship of caretaker manager Darren Moore conjured up another improbable comeback, to draw 2-2 with Liverpool.
The result now leaves Liverpool with 71 points, three points to make up on second placed Manchester United, while trimming the gap with fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur by a similar margin.
The biggest concern for Klopp however will be the mental cost of the draw, ahead of such a decisive Champions League first leg semi-final tie against Roma.
Roma warmed up for their midweek continental duty with a 3-0 demolition of strugglers SPAL in the Serie A, despite resting several key players.
Francesco Vicari inadvertently guided a cross past his own goalkeeper to hand the capital side the lead towards the end of the first half, but the visitors would require no help to find the back of the net after the break.
SPAL were comprehensively taken apart after the interval with goals from Radja Nainggolan and Patrik Schick, as the rest of the game turned into a conclusion of formalities.
Roma may be effectively out of the title race, seeing as they are third on the table with a massive point difference with Juventus and Napoli who lead the pack, but their display on the European stage has been one of a kind.
The Italians have manoeuvred their way into the last four of the Champions League, pulling off comeback wins over Shakhtar Donetsk and Barcelona in the knockout stages; achievements they will look to repeat against Liverpool.
Right back Nathaniel Clyne was taken through the paces on Monday and stands a chance of being selected after missing Saturday’s trip to West Bromwich with an injury, while Emre Can and Adam Lallana remain sidelined from the tie.
Much like Klopp, Eusebio Di Francesco is expected to revert back to a strong line-up, with the rested likes of Edin Dzeko, Aleksandar Kolarov and skipper Daniele de Rossi poised to make it back into the starting berth.
Rick Karsdorp and Gregoire Defrel will however miss the semi-final for Roma due to knee injuries.
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Mohamed Salah’s 31st League goal against West Brom set him at par with the ilk of Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez, who have all attained the landmark in a 38-game season.
The Egypt international was rightfully rewarded with the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award on Sunday for his gallant goal scoring accolades, and will without question make a telling contribution against Roma in the best way he knows how.
Liverpool vs AS Roma match prediction
What has perhaps been Roma’s most iconic moment of the campaign was eliminating Barcelona in the last eight of the Champions League by virtue of the away goal rule despite a 4-4 aggregate score line.
Roma know far too well the importance of an away goal while Liverpool have been scoring for fun in the competition, having made light work of all their opponents including Manchester City in the quarter-finals.
Prediction: Both teams to score – -151.52 on William Hill
Liverpool vs. Roma recent results
Liverpool 1-2 Roma (August 2, 2016)
Sheyi Ojo 45’+1
Edin Dzeko 29′
Mo Salah 62′
Liverpool 2-0 Roma (March 19, 2002)
Jari Litmanen 6′
Emile Heskey 64′
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