Hello and welcome to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the Champions League
semi-final first-leg tie between Liverpool
. Anfield nights do not come much bigger than this, as the Reds face off against Italy's third-placed side for a place in the final of a competition that they have won on five previous occasions, most recently triumphing 13 years ago.
Much of the Reds' success on the continent predates the rebranding of the competitions back in the early 90s, though, and it has been close to a decade since they were last at this stage. Roma, meanwhile, are hardly synonymous with success in the Champions League, with this their first European semi of any sort in some 27 years. It is, whatever way you look at it, an intriguing showdown that promises plenty.
LIVERPOOL TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Henderson, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane
SUBS: Clyne, Wijnaldum, Klavan, Moreno, Mignolet, Ings, Solanke
Liverpool are back to full strength from the 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion at the weekend, as Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dejan Lovren and Andy Robertson are restored in defence and both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Roberto Firmino
return further up the field. Boss Jurgen Klopp
did not completely rotate his squad for the match at The Hawthorns a few days back, but he did at least give those five men a bit of a breather.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is used in central midfielder alongside English compatriots James Milner and Jordan Henderson, who sat out the second leg of the quarter-final win against Manchester City due to suspension. Still no Adam Lallana or Emre Can for the home side, with both players in a real battle to feature again this term, meaning that Georginio Wijnaldum is the only midfield cover on the bench.
Alexander-Arnold and Robertson have been hugely impressive in this run to the last four, and both men are back in the side today after being given the day off against West Brom. Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno drop down to the bench, where they are joined by Ragnar Klavan, Dominic Solanke and Danny Ings. The latter of those players ended his scoring drought last time out, but it is hardly a surprise to see Klopp go with Mohamed Salah
, Sadio Mane
and Firmino up top.
ROMA TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Becker; Fazio, Manolas, Jesus; Florenzi, De Rossi, Strootman, Kolarov; Under, Nainggolan; Dzeko
SUBS: Skorupski, Pellegrini, Perotti, Schick, Gonalons, Da Silva Peres, El Shaarawy
Switching attention to the visiting side, manager Eusebio Di Francesco
has made just the one change from the 3-0 win at Barcelona in the last round - a better barometer of things, having heavily rotated for the 3-0 win at SPAL at the weekend. Cengiz Under is preferred to Patrick Schick in attack, where he will operate alongside Radja Nainggolan to provide lone striker Edin Dzeko
with some support.
This Roma side is flexible to say the least, so it is difficult to work out exactly how they will line up this evening. It looks as though it will be a 3-4-2-1, with Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman sitting a little deeper in central midfield and support then provided out wide by Aleksandar Kolarov and Alessandro Florenzi. Dzeko and Kolarov are, of course, two players that Liverpool fans will know pretty well from their time at Man City.
Kolarov and Florenzi could well drop deep to make it a back five, or if Di Francesco is feeling brave - and he certainly sounded that way in his pre-match presser - then those two players will push higher up the pitch. In goal for the Giallorossi tonight is Brazil international Alisson, who has been strongly linked with an end-of-season switch to Anfield. Plenty of eyes on him, then, in a match that will hopefully live up to its hype.
Mohamed Salah lines up against his former side this evening, 10 months after joining in a £34m transfer. That deal now looks like the bargain of the century, as the Egyptian forward has scored 20 goals in his last 18 matches and has 41 for the season overall. Voted PFA Player of the Year for 2017-18, Salah now needs just a few more to equal Ian Rush's record from 1986-87 for the most goals in a single season.
Liverpool are on course for a sixth European Cup triumph, 13 years on from their most recent success on the continent when famously overcoming AC Milan on penalties. It is shaping up to become a season to remember for the Reds after surprising many to make it this far, and they will now fancy their chances of going all the way thanks to this favourable semi-final draw.
The home side certainly have plenty of semi-final experience as a club, having competed at this stage on nine previous occasions down the years, but this is their first final-four showdown in a decade. Roma, by comparison, have featured in just one previous European cup semi, which they won to set up a meeting with Liverpool in the final - more on that a little later.
Incredibly, this is Liverpool's first semi-final against non-English opposition since 1985, as they have faced domestic rivals Chelsea the last three times they have made it this far. A run of seven successive semi wins came to an end in 2008 when losing to the Blues, and they have not managed to return to the last four since then. The club may have plenty of Euro experience, yet this is uncharted territory for many of these players.
Liverpool have won four and lost two of their previous two-legged affairs against Italian opposition, with the most recent of those a 3-0 win over Inter Milan 10 years ago. There is a familiar theme developing here - many of the Reds' famous European nights came a long time ago, having failed to qualify for the competition in back-to-back seasons for the past decade.
Klopp pointed out in the week that this journey actually started nearly a year ago when beating Middlesbrough at home on the final day of the Premier League season to finish in the top four. Then came a tricky qualifier against Hoffenheim, which they past with flying colours, before a pretty strange group-stage showing that gave us the best and worst of Liverpool in many ways.
The Reds finished top of their group with 12 points, despite drawing three of their first five matches - including a 3-3 draw in Sevilla after leading by three goals half an hour in. A 7-0 thrashing of Spartak Moscow on the final matchday, however, adding to a result by the same scoreline against Maribor earlier in the competition, saw the Merseyside outfit take top spot from Sevilla.
Porto proved to be no real competition in the first knockout round, as the Reds ran riot in Portugal by scoring five unanswered goals. The job was very much done at the Estadio do Dragao on a night to remember, effectively setting up a dead rubber three weeks later than finished goalless. Having put Porto to the sword, Liverpool set up a huge showdown with Man City which went a similar way.
Another five goals followed in that last-eight tie, this time across the two legs. Once again Liverpool blew their opponents away with quickfire goals, netting three times in 19 first-half minutes at Anfield, and they did more than just hold on in the reverse fixture. It makes the Reds, unsurprisingly, the competition's highest-scoring side with 33 goals, six more than next-best Paris Saint-Germain.
Liverpool also have three of the Champions League's top-five scorers this season; Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah scoring 23 between them. A note of caution, though - opposition keeper Alisson has made more saves (38) than any other goalkeeper in this term's competition. As eluded to by Di Francesco pre-match, too, Roma are not expected to simply sit back this evening.
DID YOU KNOW?
Liverpool are unbeaten at home in the Champions League this season, picking up two wins and a draw in the group stage, which they followed up with a stalemate against Porto and thumping win when Manchester City visited. The Reds are unbeaten in 15 European ties at Anfield going further back, in fact, winning 10 of those since a 3-0 loss to Real Madrid in October 2014.
Liverpool have been in positive form overall, winning 10 and losing just one of their last 15 matches in all competitions, and Klopp will not be too disheartened by the 2-2 draw with West Brom a few days back. A rotated Reds side let a two-goal lead slip late on, but all-in-all their defensive frailties have been harder to spot since Virgil van Dijk arrived in a record-breaking deal for a defender in January.
The Reds have lost just one of their 25 matches at Anfield this season, scoring in all but three of those, and have netted 11 in the last three alone. A difficult task for Roma, then, whose only previous triumph on the continent came in the 1960-61 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. It is fair to say that the Italian outfit's advancement to the semi-finals is equally as surprising as Liverpool's.
The run to the last four is made all the more remarkable when you factor in the difficulty of their group and the calibre of their quarter-final opponents. Roma, remember, were 4-1 down to heavyweights Barcelona from the first leg when picking up a 3-0 victory at the Stadio Olimpico to progress through on away goals - one of the competition's greatest ever results, completed by Kostas Manolas eight minutes from time.
Prior to that they had a slightly less stressful away-goals win over Shakhtar Donetsk, although even then they had to recover from 2-1 down in the first leg. No wonder that Klopp is so desperate not to concede a goal tonight - the Giallorossi have become the masters of recovering from the brink in this season's competition, thanks in large to their fanatical supporters.
Roma have already visiting England this season, earning a dramatic 3-3 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the group stage in a game that saw them trail 2-0. That proved to be a pivotal result, as they finished top of the standings and set up a last-16 clash with Shakhtar, before going on to stun Barcelona when they had some momentum on their side. Eleven points from 18 in the group stage was a fine return, as they also had to contend with Atletico Madrid and the lesser known Qarabag FK.
The visitors have now drawn on each of their last three visits to England - an outcome they would surely take this evening, particularly if it was a score draw. Overall, though, it is just one win in 16 away matches versus English opposition, losing nine of those. In terms of their record in two-legged ties against such opponents, they won each of their first three but have since lost six out of six.
A run of six wins from 25 makes this semi-final appearance all the more remarkable, and the Giallorossi should not be written off at any cost - just ask Barcelona! Roma beat SPAL 3-0 at the weekend with a rotated side to make it four matches unbeaten. They have also now lost just two of their last 11 away matches, although both of those came in Europe against Shakhtar Donetsk and Barcelona.
With kickoff on Merseyside now a little under five minutes away, let us check out some pre-match thoughts from both camps.
Jurgen Klopp: "Di Francesco and his team are people we have nothing but total respect for. He is a cool guy, a very talented leader and his players clearly believe in everything he is encouraging them to do. They arrive in a very good moment having won 3-0 away from home at the weekend, so their confidence is rightly high. They have the perfect blend of experience and youthful zest in their team and squad."
Eusebio Di Francesco: "We aren't going to sit deep. They have to do well to force us deep. The decisive thing will be for us to stay compact. They are not just Salah; the front-three combine really well together and that's not an insignificant factor. So we haven't prepared this game with one player in mind. When preparing the game, of course we have to be aware of their strongest players, but we're not targeting a single one."
This is a repeat of the 1984 European Cup final in Rome, which Liverpool won on pens after a 1-1 draw after extra time - the first final to go all the way. The Reds were also victorious in the only previous two-legged knockout tie between the two sides, winning 2-1 on aggregate en route to lifting the UEFA Cup in 2001.
KICKOFF! Brilliant atmosphere inside Anfield tonight, as you would expect for a game of this calibre. Roma are the side to get us up and running in this semi-final, sporting an all-white away strip and being jeered with each of their passes.
It is worth pointing out that Roma, who are third in the Serie A standings thanks to a superior goal difference on city rivals Lazio, have conceded eight of their 27 league goals in the final 15 minutes of matches this season.
SAVES! An early opportunity for the visitors, which saw Dzeko lay the ball off for Strootman to side-foot down the middle, where Karius was waiting to collect. Liverpool countered, Salah cut inside on his left but Alisson made a simple stop.
Fingers crossed that is a sign of things to come tonight, as Roma and Liverpool have already managed to get a shot on target apiece. A stoppage in play now because the linesman's flag has snapped, leading to a replacement being carried on.
CHANCE! Firmino, maybe just offside, gets in behind but is unable to square the ball to one of his teammates - instead to ball fizzes right across the face of goal. The linesman's flag is still not in operation... farcical!
SAVE! Oxlade-Chamberlain gets a shot away from 30 yards, which is right down the throat of Liverpool-linked goalkeeper Alisson for an easy save. Moments later, Nainggolan was wayward at the other end from a similar range.
I'm happy to report that the linesman now has a working flag! A shoot-on-sight policy from both sides, perhaps because of the wet weather which could make conditions difficult for both goalkeepers. This one is not remaining goalless.
This could be a big blow for Liverpool as, following a shin-on-shin challenge with Kolarov, Oxlade-Chamberlain has stayed down in some pain. Wijnaldum has instantly been sent to warm-up and the Englishman may well have to be replaced.
The game resumes, minus Oxlade-Chamberlain, with a dangerous cross into the box for Lovren to head clear. Oxlade-Chamberlain will spend some time receiving treatment on the sidelines before a decision is made on whether he can continue.
LIVERPOOL SUB! Roma have now taken control of this game, taking advantage of the temporary one-man advantage. The change has now been made - Georginio Wijnaldum is on for Oxlade-Chamberlain, who requires a stretcher.
OFF THE BAR! Roma's spell of pressure so nearly tells. Aleksandar Kolarov puts all sorts of swerve on his long-range shot, which caught Karius by surprise and thumped the crossbar. Replays show, though, that the German keeper did get a touch to the ball.
Almost a howler from Karius, although some credit must go to him for redeeming himself somewhat by getting a fingertip to the ball. Oxlade-Chamberlain has now finally made his way down the tunnel - a possible season-ending injury.
Incidentally, Kolarov is devoid for any blame regarding that Oxlade-Chamberlain injury - it was a coming together that unfortunately left one play worse off than the other. Twenty-five minutes played and Roma are edging things here.
Roma's high pressing causing Liverpool plenty of problems in the opening half an hour of the match. A couple of on-target attempts each, but it is the visitors who have come closest through Kolarov's belter that hit the crossbar.
CHANCE! Juan Jesus is shown the game's first yellow card for a mistimed challenge on Sadio Mane. Liverpool then with their best chance of the match, as Mane is sent clear but lifts the ball over Alisson and the crossbar.
SAVE! A third save for Alisson, and this one was the best of the lot so far. Salah was alert and curled his shot towards the bottom corner, only for the Brazilian keeper to get enough to the ball to help it wide.
The hosts have finally managed to step things up over the past five or six minutes and it is starting to tell. Roma now the ones being pegged back and, if not for that Alisson stop a few moments ago, the Reds would have been a goal to the good.
Mane with a couple of chances after getting in behind and Salah forcing a good save out of Alisson - Liverpool are building more and more momentum after a pretty slow start by their standards. Roma, though, have also showed they have a goal in them.
GOAL! LIVERPOOL 1-0 ROMA (MOHAMED SALAH)
Two minutes after Sadio Mane had a goal ruled out for offside after getting on the end of an Andrew Robertson cross, Mohamed Salah - who else? - opens the scoring for the home side. An unbelievable goal it was, too - the Egyptian cut inside on his left and bent it past Alisson via the crossbar from 16 yards.
I ran out of superlatives for Salah a long, long time ago, but a strike of this quality in a fixture of this magnitude really will see him go down in Liverpool folklore. The Reds have been phenomenal over the last 10 minutes and that goal had been coming.
OFF THE BAR! So nearly a second for Liverpool, as Dejan Lovren gets his head to the corner and sends it against the crossbar. Roma, so good for the opening half an hour, are now left holding on for the half-time whistle.
Liverpool, who had Trent Alexander-Arnold cautioned for a late challenge a couple of minutes ago, almost in for a third but Sadio Mane could not quite cut inside Alessandro Florenzi and Alisson picked up the loose ball.
SAVE! Wijnaldum the latest player to get in behind; Wijnaldum the latest player to force Alisson into a save. The visitors appear to have done enough to hold on for half time just the one goal behind. Firmino's shot deflects wide.
GOAL! LIVERPOOL 2-0 ROMA (MOHAMED SALAH)
There really is no stopping this man! Salah cushions Van dijk's clearance, lays it into the path of Firmino and is played through on goal by the Brazilian's return pass. With just Alisson to beat, Salah lifted it above his former teammate. Twelve seconds between Roma corner and goal.
HALF TIME: LIVERPOOL 2-0 ROMA
I may have cursed Roma by suggesting that they had done enough to hold on for half time just a goal down, seconds before Mohamed Salah doubled his tally for the evening. A thrilling first half that the visitors edged for the opening 30 minutes or so, only for the Reds to take complete control and race two goals in front.
The tempo was set right from the first few minutes when Kevin Strootman side-footed his shot down the throat of Loris Karius, while up the other end man of the moment Mohamed Salah cut inside and gave Alisson something to think about. Roberto Firmino got in behind two minutes later but could not pick out a teammate with his fizzed delivery, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sent the next shot right at Alisson just like Salah before him.
The shoot-on-sight policy continued as Radja Nainggolan tried his luck with a wayward effort, but the end-to-end feel to the match halted just short of a quarter of the way through following an injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who had to be stretchered off the field
in a blow for club and country. Liverpool's slight reshuffle, with Georginio Wijnaldum filling in, allowed Roma to take control of the match for the next 10 minutes.
The Giallorossi's controlled possession culminated in a rocket of a shot from Aleksandar Kolarov, which Loris Karius managed to get a touch to and help it onto the crossbar. In the blink of an eye momentum was soon back with Liverpool and, unlike their opponents, they would make it count. Mane wasted two decent openings, sending the best of them over the crossbar when played through, while Salah's curler was well dealt with, but the next time the Egyptian cut inside on his left it was a different story.
All Alisson could do was pick the ball out of the back of the net after Salah's shot was sent curling past him via the crossbar - the forward's 42nd goal of the campaign being greeted with an apology more than a celebration against his ex-employers. Liverpool, who also hit the crossbar through a Dejan Lovren header and had a Mane goal ruled out for offside in a frantic spell, were two in front before the break thanks to Salah's second, this time lifting the ball over Alisson 12 seconds after Virgil van Dijk cleared a corner to spark a counter.
RESTART! We are back under way at Anfield, where Roma have made a half-time change. Patrick Schick is on for Cengiz Under, meaning that this is now the same XI that beat Barcelona 3-0 in the previous round.
It will be interesting to see whether damage limitation is the order of the day for Roma in this second half. They have recovered from behind in both knockout rounds so far, remember, so this is not exactly a disastrous result for them.
Liverpool do not exactly have to force the issue here but they know that there are goals to be scored. A 2-0 lead is a good result to take to Rome next week, yet a third or fourth is there for the taking on the basis of the last 10 minutes of the first half.
Still awaiting the first real opening of this second half, with Roma looking to get a key away goal. Keeping the opposition out is arguably more important than netting a third as as the Reds are concerned - just ask Barcelona!
Liverpool the side asking the questions over the past couple of minutes. It is worth pointing out at this stage that the Reds have not won any of their last seven European semi-final first-leg ties since 1984-85.
GOAL! LIVERPOOL 3-0 ROMA (SADIO MANE)
Liverpool have a foot in the Champions League final thanks to a third goal on the night! Mohamed Salah was, as ever, heavily involved, adding to his two goals with an assist for Sadio Mane. The ball was squared to the Senegalese to finish past Alisson from close range - game over?
SAVE! With an hour played Roma are at risk of being completely blown away. A shot from Sadio Mane was well hit but appeared to be blocked by either Alisson or a defender in front of the Brazilian goalkeeper, who has had to work overtime tonight.
GOAL! LIVERPOOL 4-0 ROMA (ROBERTO FIRMINO)
Liverpool fans are in absolute dreamland! Roberto Firmino joins the party by adding his side's fourth goal of the evening, helping the ball over the line from all of a yard after being spotted by star man Mohamed Salah.
I think it is fair to say after that fourth Liverpool goal that Di Francesco's use of wing-backs high up the pitch has not worked very well today. Those two quickfire goals in this second half were both created by Salah down the right in acres of space.
Liverpool can sense a fifth goal, and at this rate you would fancy them to get it. Roma, comeback specialists in this competition, were only ever three goals behind against Barcelona in the last round. This is surely already too much.
Di Francesco makes his final two changes, bringing on Maxime Gonalons and Diego Perotti
for De Rossi and Jesus. The visitors are now in need of a miracle if they are to make it through to their first Champions League final.
GOAL! LIVERPOOL 5-0 ROMA (ROBERTO FIRMINO)
This is getting rather embarrassing for Roma now. The previous four goals have been well worked from the Reds' perspective, but this was a simple header for Firmino from a corner, getting the ball past Alisson with no visiting player on the post.
This will now go down as one of the most famous nights in Liverpool's history. Five goals away to Porto, three at home to Man City and now five - and, let's face it, probably a sixth by full time - against a half-decent Roma side in the knockout stages alone.
LIVERPOOL SUB! Dejan Lovren is cautioned for his challenge and Patrik Schick was then denied by Karius with a decent header. A second Liverpool change now, as Danny Ings comes on for Mohamed Salah with 15 minutes to go.
Liverpool still have the luxury of another sub to make should they wish. Roma have already used all three of theirs, and that could spell trouble because Kevin Strootman has just started limping around the field - it could go from bad to worse.
That is now 28 goals for Firmino, Salah and Mane in the Champions League this season and 38 for Liverpool overall. Roma showing a bit more about themselves since going a fifth down, but it is very much too little, too late.
Roma fans making a bit of noise now, but even those travelling supporters know that their Champions League adventure is over. Coming back from three behind against Barcelona was special; doing so from five behind against Liverpool - no chance.
GOAL! LIVERPOOL 5-1 ROMA (EDIN DZEKO)
Now then! Liverpool have looked far too comfortable since going five ahead - you cannot blame them too much for that - and Edin Dzeko has given his side the slimmest of hopes. Nainggolan with a ball over the top for the striker, who chested it down and blasted past Karius - great goal.
GOAL! LIVERPOOL 5-2 ROMA (DIEGO PEROTTI, PEN)
Roma have seriously stepped things up over the past five minutes, and they now have a route back into this match - mission impossible no more. Nainggolan's shot struck Milner's hand; Diego Perotti stepped up and put the pen in the top of the net.
Two away goals and now within three of Liverpool - we have a game on our hands in Rome next week. Would Eusebio Di Francesco take full time now? Maybe he can sense a third goal, which really would be an incredible turnaround.
Roma are knocking on the door for a third - incredible how this match has completely turned on its head. Liverpool still the strong favourites to progress through, of course, but it is no longer as straightforward as expected.
LIVERPOOL SUB! We are halfway through four minutes of added on time at Anfield and Klopp has brought on Ragnar Klavan for Roberto Firmino. The home boss has made his priorities well known - hold on and take a three-goal lead to Rome.
FULL TIME: LIVERPOOL 5-2 ROMA
The full-time whistle sounds at Anfield, where Liverpool have defeated Roma 5-2 in their Champions League semi-final first leg. That scoreline does not reflect the mood around the ground, though, because a late Edin Dzeko strike and a Diego Perotti penalty has restored some hope for Italian visitors, who were five goals behind with 11 minutes left to play.
That concludes Sports Mole
's live text coverage of events from Merseyside. An on-the-whistle report can be found by clicking here
, while reaction from this explosive showdown will be available elsewhere on the site in due course. Thanks for joining!