It might be a bit of a reach to say that Anfield is hosting its biggest Champions League night for the past decade, but obviously, this is an enormous match and an enormous opportunity. We have qualified for the UCL semifinals after beating Manchester City 5-1 on aggregate. Our opponents are Roma, who will have basically all of Italy behind them (except for the Laziali). They come in with a ton of confidence, probably feeling like they can take on the world after having come back to beat Barcelona from 4-1 down to advancing courtesy of the away goals rule (4-4 on aggregate). This first leg will be at home, and we will be without Lallana, Can, Matip and most likely Clyne.
Roma seem to hover between a few formations, including play with a back 3 and a back 4, so it is a bit tricky to pinpoint how they will set up. What we know is that Dzeko is their main offensive threat, with Nainggolan and De Rossi providing steel in the middle, acting as cover for the back line. De Rossi is maybe a better passer, but Nainggolan offers more offensively as he has the capacity to go up and down the pitch with seemingly no trouble. For this game, all I will say is that I think they will go with a back 4.
For us we obviously go with our strongest lineup. Karius; Trent A-A, Lovren, VVD, Robertson; Alex O-C, Henderson, Milner; Salah, Firmino, and Mane.
I think we have to impose ourselves in this match as early as we can. Defensively go with our normal mid-block with constant pressure on Nainggolan and De Rossi. We saw the ball that Danielle played Dzeko for Roma’s first goal against Barcelona when he was given time and space. We must suffocate them from their source of build up. We allow their CBs to have the ball and allow them to break our first line, into our front 6 (the 3 midfielders and 3 attackers). Then we pressure from the back, from the front, and from the sides. Literally all angles. Let them play out of pressure, to players who are not as dangerous with the ball. Ideally, we allow the back pass as the visible option for them, and under pressure, they will play it back to them, back to players who are not as threatening with the ball at their feet, and also farther away.
Offensively I think we will need constant threats to run behind from Salah and Mane. Both of them should make these runs between a CB and the FB on their side. With these 2 making these runs, they take up and occupy their back 4. Firmino can then drop between the lines because of the extra space created by the threatening runs of Salah and Mane. If the Roma midfielders drop down to cover Firmino, then they will leave Henderson available to spray balls across the pitch and compose the game how he wants. And if the Roma forwards drop down to take care of Henderson then at that point the whole Roma team is relatively deep in their own half, while we have a solid base to cover for any counter they may throw at us. So either we send Salah and Mane through all day, or they allow Firmino with plenty of space because of the runs from the other 2, or they allow Henderson to control the game.
I think Roma have good reason to be confident entering this match, but we have good reason to believe that we will prepare ourselves well for the second leg in Rome. I will go for a 3-0 victory.