Liverpool is threat to end Champions League rule by Real Madrid and Bayern Munich
This does not mean the Champions League winner is certain to come from Wednesday’s marquee match. While Liverpool, 11 years removed from a Champions League semifinal, does not have the recent pedigree of Bayern and Real, the Reds have played at a similar level to the super clubs this year. By expected goals difference, a measure of the quality of chances created and conceded, Liverpool appears much closer to Bayern and Real than to Roma.
In the first semifinal, then, the question is what Roma can do to pull off the upset. Liverpool has been one of the highest-pressing and highest-possession sides in the Premier League. In its first-leg match at home at Anfield, it should be able to control the ball and midfield. This is a dangerous position for Roma, but opening up to contest midfield and conceding space for Premier League player of the year Mohamed Salah to get into one-on-one contests with defenders would be worse.
The Reds have been increasingly dangerous from possession this season. Salah’s ability to create shots for himself and his teammates has been game-changing. Salah’s 0.74 expected goals per 90 minutes place him second in the Premier League behind Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur, and his 0.29 expected assists are seventh in the league among players with at least 2,000 minutes played. Both figures lead Liverpool. Roma will have to find a way to prevent Salah from creating chances for himself or his teammates to finish, most likely by packing defenders deep and conceding space in midfield.
The most likely outcome is that Roma cannot stop Liverpool from scoring. But if the defense holds or Liverpool struggles to finish, Roma’s counterattack is dangerous enough to create problems. Roma has its own expected goals leader up top, with center forward Edin Dzeko topping Serie A with 0.59 xG/90. Stylistically, the Italian side likes to strike quickly. Roma is first in Serie A in both shots attempted from moves of two passes or fewer (140) and shots attempted from direct counterattacks (33). These moves tend to have a similar pattern of play. Winger Diego Perotti functions as both the quick outlet for attacks and the man who drives attacks forward. He is expected to be fit for Roma after a recent injury, and he will match up against young Liverpool fullback Trent Alexander-Arnold.