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  Sports   Football  21 Apr 2018  Liverpool-Roma encounter will be a battle of contrasts

Liverpool-Roma encounter will be a battle of contrasts

Published : Apr 21, 2018, 12:56 am IST
Updated : Apr 21, 2018, 12:56 am IST

In that final in the summer of 1984 Liverpool tormented Roma with their clever possession football.

Mohammed Salah
 Mohammed Salah

The last week of April is crunch time in the Uefa Champions League. The first leg of the semi-finals, Liverpool versus AS Roma and Bayern Munich against Real Madrid will be played at Anfield on April 25 and Munich on April 26 respectively. The return legs will take place a week later. Both semi-finals have plenty of historical significance.

For Liverpool fans, the Stadio Olimpico in Rome is the most romantic of destinations. It was the scene of two of Liverpool’s five European Cup wins, in 1977 and 1984. Under Bob Paisley’s guidance and with Kevin Keegan running rings around the experienced Bertie Vogts, Liverpool won the European Cup for the first time with a 3-1 win over Borussia Monchengladb-ach.

In 1984 Liverpool’s eccentric goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar unnerved Roma’s penalty takers in the shoot-out after the final ended in a 1-1 draw. Liverpool prevailed 4-2.

In that final in the summer of 1984 Liverpool tormented Roma with their clever possession football. Their majestic Scottish midfielder Graeme Souness eclipsed the fancied Brazilian World Cup stars Falcao and Toninho Cerezo of Roma.

In contrast, Liverpool now rely on the blistering speed of their attacking trio Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. Roma will reply on quick counter-attacks initiated by Radja Nainggolan, Danille de Rossi and Kevin Strootman so the match will be a fascinating battle of contrasts. Also Roma have kept five consecutive clean sheets in their five matches at the Stadio Olimpico in this season’s Champions League.

Salah is returning to his former club and there will be a lot of pressure on him when he plays at Rome.

Bayern Munich have been eliminated by Spanish opponents in the last four seasons, including in the quarter-finals by Real Madrid in 2016-17, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring five times in the tie. Bayern Munich were incensed at some awful officiating by referee Viktor Kassai. They were dominating first half proceedings when Arturo Vidal was incorrectly sent off near the end of normal time.

Vidal’s dismissal was compounded by Ronaldo scoring what Bayern Munich fans claimed were two offside goals in extra-time. The German club officials were angered at the decisions and accused Real Madrid of being helped by the referees. So when the teams meet again this season there will be a lot of tensions both on and off the field and it could well be a battle royal.

Real Madrid’s superior goal scoring prowess and Ronaldo’s imperious form should enable the Spanish club to prevail.

Jupp Heyncke’s team needs a decisive win in the first leg in Munich to make this semi-final intriguing.

Both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have won four Uefa Champions league titles. Messi won in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015 with Barcelona. Ronaldo won this coveted title in 2008 with Manchester United and thrice with Real Madrid in 2014, 2016 and 2017. With both players unlikely to win a World Cup title, their legacies will be based on their Champions League successes.

If Real Madrid reach the final and Ronaldo manages to win a hat-trick of titles and fifth overall, his legacy as an all time great will be permanently enshrined.

Tags: uefa champions league, real madrid, liverpool, mohamed salah