Well, anyone who would have bet on a Liverpool - AS Roma semifinal in the Champions League back in September, would have won so much money he could effectively buy both clubs (and still have money left to bring in Neymar, Lewandowksi and Kroos). Alas, hindsight is a wonderful thing and I guess I just have to keep working hard for my own two cents.
However, seeing Roma in a semifinal (any semifinal to be honest, be it Europe or the Coppa Italia) warms my heart. And heck, if you reached it this far, why not go all-out and aim for the final?! And in one match anything can happen, right? So there you have it, the scientific proof that AS Roma are the CL winners 2017-2018. Now, let’s move on to Serie A in Ital.... wowowowow, slow down boy. Not so quick. It’s nice to be optimistic and enthusiastic but there’s a fine line between optimism and ignorance. Roma will have to beat Liverpool FC and mark one man in particular: Salah. The rising star of European football.
I’m writing this ten months after the popular Egyptan left Rome and a part of me still feels sad and angry about his departure. It seems some wounds take a lot of time to heal. It’s like seeing that sexy ex over and over again in your favorite bar, with her new catch. She looks amazing, all eyes in the bar on her. Imagine, long time ago she was your property, your possession. Bragging among friends about your relationship. Everyone was jealous. We were so damn good together. Stupid boy, why did you let her go... Ahem, well, before this all gets too personal, let’s just focus on the football.
So, everything was going well and then, a break-up happened. Nothing Roma could do about it. Money is what makes the world go round. The Giallorossi got a nice sum for it, but if you look at his numbers this season, then damn, a 40m offer was still way too low. He looks like a 60-70m player right now. Again, hindsight is a wonderful thing and I don’t really blame Monchi for it. After the crazy Neymar, Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele deals, the calcio mercato got into an overdrive and chose the ridiculous path.
Mendy 52m pounds, Morata 60m pounds, keeper Pickford (who?) for 25m pounds to Everton. Last January Dutch defender Van Dijk suddenly became the most expensive defender ever (to Liverpool FYI). Salah is way better than all of those. Right now. But who back in June 2017 believed he could repeat his Roman trick in the Premier League? A league in which he previously experienced a not so good spell with Chelsea. At Liverpool he’s having his best ever season and his mind-blowing stats are on par with Ronaldo or Messi.
Reasons enough for EDF and Roma to come up with a cunning plan. A plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel (100 internet points if you knew where this quote comes from). Salah needs to be stopped. Elegantly or the hard way. Liverpool’s trident Firmino-Mane-Salah is among Europe’s best alongside Gerson-Schick-Defrel (ahum) so the entire defense needs to be one step ahead of them.
Of course it’s gonna need some help from midfield and well, waddayaknow, Roma’s mid is one of the toughest, hardest and bad ass ones in Europe. Daniele and Stroots are key components here. They need form a wall with Fazio and Manolas, so Florenzi, Radja and Kolarov have some room and can make war up front.
Since Fazio and Kolarov aren’t the fastest out there and Jesus is decent but not world class, a lot of pressure is on our Greek God
Kratos Manolas to stop Momo Salah. Roma already neutralized Hazard, Griezman, Messi and co, so Salah shouldn’t be a problem. But Mo is a different type of player, a force of nature and quick as lightning. Manolas needs to bring his A game.
Salah knows our defenders through and through, and our defenders know Mo’s style of play. It’s gonna be a fascinating battle. Of course Liverpool has other threats like Mane, Can or Oxlade but for the Egyptian it’s a very special game, so soon after his departure in Rome. EDF had a plan against Barcelona and Valverde, how will he counter Klopp? A man who gave coaches like Mourinho and Guardioa headaches?
Both teams are living in a European fairy tale right now but for one it will end in an abrupt way. Psychologically Roma has a slight advantage because the return leg is in the Olimpico, a place where Alisson has a 100% clean sheet record in Europe. Atletico, Shaktar, Chelsea, Barcelona all failed to score a goal there so that must give us a moral advantage.
Liverpool beat teams like Porto and Spartak Moscow but got held by Sevilla twice. A less impressive campaign than Roma’s surely. They dominated at home against City but the match in Manchester was a tighter race. Make no mistake, they are beatable. If Roma can score at least one goal on Tuesday, then that’s a huge plus.
A win might be too much to ask, a draw would increase Roma’s chances to 60-70%. Even if they lose 2-1 or 3-1, they’ll always have Barcelona on their minds and the belief in another comeback at home. But we really need that away goal so once again everyone will look at Dzeko and Ünder to shine on the biggest stage of football.
Only days separate us from Roma’s first ever CL semifinal. The tension is almost unbearable. Pallotta is ready to jump in another fountain. It’s time to honor the nickname La Maggica and get a good result in England. The Olimpico is already sold-out for another magical evening, all ingredients are in place.
See you on Tuesday, Mo.