‘How Roma can shock Liverpool — just like they did Barcelona’

The one thing that could possibly hurt Liverpool’s defence in their Champions League semi-final decider is pace.

And, frankly, Roma striker Edin Dzeko is not exactly blessed with it.

He still has that rangy, gangly sort of speed but he’s not the quickest. He certainly isn’t capable of the sort of short, sharp bursts that would really put the fear of God up a back four that has looked much, much better since Virgil van Dijk’s arrival in January.

The Dutchman has brought leadership and calm to the Reds’ defence, he’s a good footballer.

And if Dzeko is isolated one-on-one, or one-on-two, against him and his central defensive partner — which will probably be Dejan Lovren, who is also much improved — then there won’t be much to worry about.

Liverpool still have to be aware of the Bosnian, don’t get me wrong (after all, he will pose an aerial threat and is good in the box) but he’s a level down from Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski.

And as long as their full-backs keep Roma’s wide attacking midfielders from getting towards the byline and knocking crosses in, they will be relatively safe in that department and their 5-2 aggregate lead will be enough.

The area I’d actually be targeting, if I was Eusebio Di Francesco, would be Liverpool’s midfield, after seeing the way Manchester City set about them in the first half of their quarter-final second leg.

I know Jordan Henderson missed that game at the Etihad through suspension but James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum were overrun, they just couldn’t get hold of the ball, and that automatically put pressure on their back four.

The defence dealt with most of that admirably, as it happened, but that will give Roma a glimmer of hope.

Milner’s stats in the Champions League this season speak for themselves and Wijnaldum did well in the first leg against Roma after coming on early following Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury.

Likewise, Henderson has done himself proud in the competition for much of this campaign.

But I’m not sure Henderson and Wijnaldum are flawless when it comes to managing games and keeping the ball away from their back four when they’re under pressure, and I am sure all three of Liverpool’s midfielders are better going forward than they are at defending.

I’d be saying, ‘Right, if you take a step forward and you can get past whoever their midfield three are, then you have a chance, because this back four has done very well but it isn’t world class’.

I’d flood the midfield if I was Di Francesco with two, three even four midfielders hunting in packs as often as possible.

Roma will believe that, having overturned a three-goal deficit against Barcelona in the quarter-finals, the tie is still alive and that if they can get an early goal then all of a sudden they will have given themselves every chance.

Even if they do get one, or two, however, we know Liverpool score goals, and I’m adamant they will get the one that will make Roma’s job impossible.

Will Liverpool reach the Champions League final?


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