Wednesday evening represents much more than a game of football, but moreover provides Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool with the opportunity to etch their name into folklore, with a second-leg tie at Roma standing in the way of a first Champions League final since 2007.
The Reds are truly flying the flag for English clubs in Europe’s premier competition this season, with Arsenal also vying for a shot at European glory, yet the Gunners arguably have a tougher task at hand given how the first legs of both matches played out.
That being said, the credentials of the side from Roma are all too familiar, with their resilience and determination coming to the fore both at Anfield, yet more so in their quarter-final affair with the formidable Barcelona, with whom they recovered from a 4-1 first-leg scoreline to come back in stunning fashion to win the home tie 3-0 and thus progress to the semi-final on away goals.
Klopp will be extremely wary of the threat the Italians pose at home, where the Stadio Olimpico will undeniably look to generate an atmosphere similar to that of Anfield just one week ago in the thrilling first encounter between these two exciting sides.
The Reds simply blew their opponents away in the first leg, yet fell ill to many of the problems that have plagued them all too often this season, with the failure to manage games properly at the top of a brief yet albeit frustrating list of Klopp’s weaknesses. Five goals scored and zero conceded would have been an incredible scoreline to take to Rome in a Champions League semi-final, yet unsurprisingly – considering how poorly the away side defended – the German could almost taste another two or three goals. Klopp’s beliefs were justified as the home side undoubtedly should have found the net more than five times, yet the failure to shut up shop at that stage could prove crucial.
A 5-2 lead should, however, be enough to see the Reds through, yet with Roma’s history in the previous round, against a side with all the quality of Barcelona, coupled with Liverpool’s tendencies to make costly mistakes, a nervous 90 minutes awaits the Reds and their travelling fans.
Moreover, the injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain serves only to through more doubt into the minds of the thousands of Liverpool followers who appreciated the fact that the England international had finally found his feet at his new club and was becoming a star performer. He will be sorely missed in a midfield that were hugely impressive in the game at Anfield, an area controlled by the brilliance of Jordan Henderson, who outclassed the potentially dangerous Radja Nainggolan to produce one of his best ever displays in a Liverpool shirt to date.
The front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane will once again be key to any success for Klopp’s men, who will be boosted by the recent signing of a new contract from their star number nine, yet may equally be distracted by the news that assistant manager Zeljko Buvac will be spending the rest of the season away from the club due to personal reasons.
The test with Roma represents a much simpler task than the Manchester City clash, yet one lapse in concentration, just like in the first leg, or similarly if the Reds take their foot off the gas, and the home side will certainly take advantage. That being said, Liverpool should have enough from their stunning first-leg display to see them through and into a highly-coveted Champions League final place against all the might of Real Madrid, a notion unheard of from Liverpool’s standards in recent years.