Jordan Henderson must again muscle out Radja Nainggolan as Liverpool to look to finish Roma

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The first leg left little doubt that both teams can score, but it left a plethora of question marks over which Liverpool and Roma players can defend.

The focus will be on the back-lines at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday night, with Roma knowing that conceding just one goal against this high-octane Liverpool attack will very likely spell the end of their Champions League campaign.

But though Jurgen Klopp’s men have improved at the back since Virgil van Dijk’s signing, they still aren’t the most well-oiled unit in the world.

Below we’ve picked out the key men as Roma attempt to overhaul a 5-2 deficit.

RADJA NAINGGOLAN V JORDAN HENDERSON

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Jordan Henderson will forever have his detractors but last week’s bossing of Radjia Nainggolan will forever be ammunition for the captain’s fanclub.

At the base of midfield Henderson was a pillar of strength up against the three of Nainggolan, Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman which ran over Barcelona at the Stadio Olimpico in the round before.

For his size, the Liverpool captain can too often fail to impose himself in the centre and his ‘Hollywood’ long balls sometimes end up closer to L.A than his intended target.

If he keeps it simple and brings the physicality again, though, Liverpool should sail through.

Nainggolan was in actual fact one of Roma’s most effective players in a miserable hour at Anfield before they finally woke up.

Patrolling the areas just behind hitman Edin Dzeko the Belgian threw his weight around as a touch of panic set in during the early stages.

He was ultimately outshone and outmuscled by Henderson, yet was the catalyst behind that late Roma rally.

As well as being Roma’s Rottweiler he is a creative force and the Giallorossi need him at his very best to achieve the improbable.

KOSTAS MANOLAS V DEJAN LOVREN 

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After the first leg brought seven goals and a comedy of errors at the back it’s only right to draw out two of the worst culprits ahead of the second game.

No visiting defender covered themselves in glory at Anfield – Federico Fazio and Juan Jesus were equally atrocious – but you’d have expected better from the de facto leader of the group.

Manolas, of course, was the man who scored that famous header to vanquish Barcelona in the quarters. Last week his head was more often in his hands.

He made a mess of the initial ball – and was sucked into midfield – for the gilt-edged chance that Sadio Mane missed, and then the Greek showed his former team-mate Mohamed Salah too much space for Liverpool’s opener.

As for Dejan Lovren, he has settled into his role as Virgil van Dijk’s deputy since the Dutch centre-back arrived at the club in January.

The wobbles returned though when he failed to cut out Nainggolan’s pass for the Dzeko goal that sparked Roma’s mini-revival.

Though the Giallorossi cannot afford a single mistake at the Stadio Olimpico, if they score first, Lovren will be under the microscope again.

ALISSON V LORIS KARIUS 

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Last Tuesday’s first leg was a battle between a Liverpool goalkeeper and the man slated to replace him. Loris Karius though was the clear winner over Alisson.

The Brazilian No1 looked tentative off his line and made a smattering of rash decisions. Only a Juan Jesus block kept out a Mane header and the delivery should have been dealt with by Alisson.

One bad game should not tarnish his reputation – he has simply been outstanding in Serie A this season – and he needs to pull off his finest performance yet, as surely one goal will mean curtains for Roma.

Since supplanting Simon Mignolet as Liverpool’s first-choice keeper, Karius has generally been solid if not commanding. Even if he proves the hero like Jerzy Dudek did in Istanbul 12 years ago, remember that the Anfield club swiftly snapped up Pepe Reina that summer.

Another man who is clearly a confidence player – if he can’t handle West Brom, can Karius keep a desperate Roma out?

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Roma looking for a miracle in Champions League semi-final second leg against Liverpool

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Roma need a repeat of their 3-0 win over Barcelona.

Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco admits he is looking for a miracle in their Champions League semi-final second leg at home to Liverpool.

Having stunned Barcelona, who arrived with a 4-1 lead in the last round but exited the competition on away goals after the hosts’ 3-0 win, Di Francesco hopes lightning strikes twice as they try to overcome a 5-2 deficit.

“I would do a copy and paste (of the Barca game),” he said.

“It is in the mind of the players. In order to compete against a rival such as Liverpool, we need to raise the bar in terms of physical effort, then comes the attitude, approach to the game and trying to score an early goal to have the fans behind us even more.

“We have conceded very little to our rivals at home (Roma have not let in a Champions League goal at the Stadio Olimpico this season).

“It won’t be easy, but it is our duty to believe it. Thanks to the passion of our fans, we have our fans behind us so we all have the desire to complete one more miracle, if I may use the word.”

There will be a particular focus on fans over the next 48 hours after an attack before the first leg left 53-year-old Reds supporter Sean Cox in a critical condition.

A huge police operation is being undertaken to keep the 5,000 travelling fans safe and while Di Francesco admits there is a problem with some of the club’s supporters he insists it is not specific to Roma.

“I’m afraid that rotten apples are everywhere in all sets of fans,” he added.

“Obviously someone who does not belong to our true fans did something very, very wrong. My thoughts and prayers go with the family.

“What I can assure you is that here in Rome, the base of Roma fans are really passionate.

“Unfortunately, hooligans are everywhere and you are familiar with that phenomenon.

“Unfortunately, it’s a massive issue that is detrimental to the whole footballing world. My appeal is to the fans is to come to the stadium and enjoy a sports festival.”

Part of the animosity to Liverpool from Roma fans dates back to their defeat in the 1984 final when they were defeated in their own ground as the Reds won their fourth European Cup.

But Di Francesco said that history was irrelevant to this match.

“Too much time has gone from that final. It’s something that lies inside the hearts of Roma fans,” he said.

“I’ve been here as a player in the past, I know how important that game was, but it was another time.

“I believe that you can’t compare this game to the 1984 final. Motivations have to come from other parts.”

Midfielder Radja Nainggolan is well aware of the task which faces them on Wednesday.

“I think we all know it will be difficult but it was difficult against Barcelona and we did it. We need to believe in what we can do, that’s it,” he said.

“I think it will be more difficult than against Barcelona because this is physically a better team.”

Explaining their performance at Anfield he added: “I’m afraid Liverpool’s players were just more consistent.

“We managed to score two late goals and it gives us a glimpse of hope and we are still alive. Now we cannot afford to repeat that mistake.

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Mohamed Salah on hunt for more Champions League records with Liverpool while it's deja vu for Roma

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Mohamed Salah has been unstoppable.

Scoring three goals without conceding against elite opposition in the Champions League? Impossible for some. Not for AS Roma.

After being cracked open by Liverpool at Anfield, the Giallorossi could at least take solace in the fact that they’d been in exactly the same position against Barcelona heading into the second leg of the quarter-finals.

So there’s more than enough reason to keep tabs on the action at Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday night – though it would indeed beggar belief if a free-scoring Liverpool didn’t find the back of the net.

Check out the stats behind Mohamed Salah and Liverpool’s remarkable campaign, and how history stacks for Roma as they bid to turn around the 5-2 deficit, below.

AS ROMA

· Only four teams have progressed after a 5-2 away defeat in the first leg of a European two-legged knockout tie, all in the now-defunct Fairs Cup/UEFA Cup.

· AS Roma have netted at least three goals in three different Champions League matches this season – a 3-3 away draw and 3-0 home win in the group stage versus Chelsea and a 3-0 home triumph in the quarter-final second leg against Barcelona (to progress on away goals).

· Edin Dzeko has scored seven Champions League goals this season, the most by a Roma player in a single CC/CL campaign.

· Dzeko could become the first player to score in five consecutive Champions League matches for an Italian team since Alvaro Morata for Juventus from May to September 2015.

· Daniele De Rossi (56) is one short of equalling Francesco Totti (57) as the player to make the most Champions League appearances for Roma.

0323 Edin Dzeko
LIVERPOOL

· Liverpool have conceded at  least three goals in five Champions League knockout stage matches, but none of those five fixtures produced a scoreline that would eliminate the Reds in the second leg ofthe semi-final against Roma.

· Liverpool will play their 100th match in the Champions League. Manchester United (214), Arsenal (177) and Chelsea (156) are the English clubs to have already achieved this landmark.

· Liverpool are unbeaten in 13 Champions League matches (W7-D6-L0), since a 1-0 away group stage defeat against Real Madrid on November 4, 2014. The Reds could equal their longest CL unbeaten run- 14 matches from December 2004 to December 2005 (including the 2004/05 final).

· Liverpool (38) are the leading Champions League goalscorers this campaign. Only Barcelona (45 in 1999/2000) and Real Madrid (41 in 2013/14) netted more goals in a single CL season.

· Salah’s 10 Champions League goals this campaign are at least two more than any other African player has netted in a single season – eight by Samuel Eto’o for Internazionale in 2010/11 and Sadio Mane for Liverpool in 2017/18.

Salah of Liverpool

· Salah could become the second player to net in four consecutive Liverpool Champions League matches, after Steven Gerrard scored in five in a row from October 2007 to February 2008.

· Roberto Firmino (10) has equalled the Champions League record for most goals by a Brazilian player in a single season – also 10 by Mario Jardel (1999/2000 for FC Porto), Rivaldo (1999/2000 for Barcelona), Kaka (2006/07 for AC Milan) and Neymar (2014/15 for Barcelona).

· Salah (10), Firmino (10) and Sadio Mane (8) are Liverpool’s three leading Champions League goalscorers this season. This is the first time a team has had more than two players net at least eight CL goals in a single campaign.

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