Draw evokes memories of ’84 decider

Liverpool have only good memories of Rome and the Stadio Olimpico, starting with that night in May over 40 years ago when Bob Paisley celebrated his return to the city he had helped to liberate in 1944 by securing their first European title.

Draw evokes memories of ’84 decider

For Roma, simply getting through to the knockout stage was an achievement; they certainly did not expect to reach the last four.

But their stunning comeback against Barcelona has given them confidence, just as the semi-final draw has convinced Liverpool fans that this is their year.

This was the draw that both clubs wanted, so much so that Roma jumped the gun and were already advertising tickets on Thursday (it was a dummy run on the club website).

The reunion with Mo Salah is eagerly awaited — he was their player of the year before his move to Anfield — and memories of their defeat in that 1984 final remain vivid in Rome.

Mauro Baldissoni, now Roma managing director, had just turned 14.

“I watched the game and it was my first big disappointment as a fan,” he said yesterday, “It’s a great opportunity to start again from that point, to get back to that level and hopefully go further.”

Playing the second leg at home is a potential advantage, said Baldissoni — the Olimpico fans inspired their team against Barcelona — but, of course, they need to still be in the tie for that to count.

Daniele De Rossi, captain and the hero in that stunning win, believes that at this stage the draw makes little difference.

“Liverpool achieved an exploit similar to ours, beating the side that for me were the favourites. They have a coach who I’m crazy about; we’re concerned and rightly so. They play good football, but we’re convinced we have a chance against them.”

Roma’s comeback, followed by Juventus’s performance in Madrid, has given the Italians a major boost after their failure to qualify for the World Cup.

The Gazzetta dello Sport reckons Liverpool’s youth and speed in attack gives them the advantage, but this is partly balanced out by their fallibility in defence — and their lack of reinforcements on the bench.

Roma also do not have much strength in reserve, and one concern among the fans is that Radja Nainggolan has recently not been at his best.

De Rossi has returned to his role as the chief inspiration, like a gladiator in midfield, and in Kostas Manolas Roma also have power in defence, where the Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson has been one of the season’s revelations, in Serie A as well as in Europe.

The other revelation is 20-year-old Turkish winger Cengiz Under, who has helped overcome Salah’s departure.

But Roma need all their first-choice midfielders in form to perform at their best, starting in tomorrow’s derby against Lazio.

The two Rome sides are tied in third and fourth place in Serie A, with Lazio smarting from their Europa League exit on Thursday, while Roma have to overcome a sense of euphoria that De Rossi described as like being drunk.

The state of the Olimpico pitch should help sober him up.

“Not fit for purpose” is the verdict of both clubs, and Liverpool will no doubt be taking note of that in advance of their own encounter. Some things in football don’t change: There were problems with the Olimpico pitch in 1984 as well.

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