Liverpool will seek to secure a good lead ahead of the return leg when they host Roma in the first leg of their Champions League soccer semi-final on Tuesday (2.45pm ET).
Both teams upset the odds to progress to the final four. Liverpool overcame Premier League champions Manchester City with a mix of swashbuckling attacking and careful defending, while Roma produced an incredible comeback from a 1-4 first-leg defeat to down Barcelona.
The one and only previous time Roma made it this far was in 1984, when they defeated Scottish side Dundee United to make it through to the final. Their opponents there were Liverpool, who emerged victorious on penalties following a 1-1 draw through normal and extra time. That was one of their four triumphs in an eight-year period in the 1970s and 80s.
Success in both domestic and European competition has been more sporadic since the end of the 1980s, but Liverpool did secure their fifth Champions League crown by coming back from three goals down to defeat Milan in the 2005 final. They were then losing finalists in 2007, before reaching the last four in 2008 and the quarter-finals in 2009. Prior to this season, however, their two subsequent appearances had only yielded group-stage exits.
Things have been different this time around. Liverpool’s attacking prowess has been evident all season. Former Roma forward Mohamed Salah has been the standout in a team who are the Champions League top scorers with 33 goals. The manner in which they defended in their quarter-final win over City, and their improved defensive record at home and in Europe since the turn of the year suggest a better balance has now been struck.
Both their last 16 and quarter-final successes followed a similar pattern: a decisive first-leg result (5-0 against Porto; 3-0 against Manchester City) accompanied by a well-managed second leg. The way they came out of the blocks against City, scoring three times within the opening half hour or so, is something they need to replicate on Tuesday.
Having recovered from first-leg defeats in each of the two knockout rounds to date, Roma will hope to make things a bit easier for themselves this time out. It has, in general, been an impressive Champions League campaign for the Giallorossi. They topped their group ahead of Chelsea and the eliminated Atletico Madrid, edged past Shakhter Donetsk on away goals in the last 16 and then dispatched Barcelona in dramatic style in the quarter-finals.
The headlines afterwards rightly focused on their stunning comeback from a three-goal first-leg deficit to go through on away goals with a 3-0 victory in Rome, but the truth is that they deserved to go through on the balance of play over the course of the two legs. The first leg in Barcelona was a lot closer in terms of chances than the 1-4 scoreline suggested, and Roma then dominated territory and opportunities in the return.
Liverpool are the favorites with the all the top 10 US betting sites to progress but they shouldn’t underestimate their opponents. Former Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko remains a quality goal-getter, with six in this year’s competition, and his former Etihad teammate Aleksandar Kolarov is his main supply line from left-back. They have a strong and athletic midfield and wide forwards who are capable of making progress inside or out. Goalkeeper Alisson is in very good form.
Coach Eusebio di Francesco gained a reputation for attractive if at times overly bold attacking football at Sassuolo and while he has somewhat tempered his approach since joining Roma last summer, it must be noted that his side are yet to keep a clean sheet away from home in this year’s Champions League. They have conceded twice or more in four of their five away engagements. So keeping a clean sheet against Liverpool’s highly potent attack seems unlikely.
The home side will be confident of taking advantage of that relative defensive fragility to build up a strong advantage prior to the second leg in Italy. Roma have lost nine and won just one of their 16 away matches against English teams in European competition and that record is unlikely to improve on Tuesday. Liverpool should be fancied to secure victory.
Our Preview’s Liverpool vs. Roma Betting Picks & Predictions
Given our analysis in the Liverpool vs Roma preview above, here are our betting predictions and picks for this matchup:
- Bet on Liverpool to be winning at half and full time @ +125 with Bovada.