Jurgen Klopp has warned his Liverpool stars that Roma’s epic comeback against Barcelona proves the Italian club shouldn’t be underestimated when they clash in the Champions League semi-finals.
Klopp could have been forgiven for feeling relieved that Liverpool avoided holders Real Madrid and formidable German champions Bayern Munich in Friday’s draw.
But the Liverpool manager insists Roma will present a formidable barrier to his team’s bid to reach the Champions League final for the first time since 2007.
Roma may lack the star power of their last four rivals, but the Italians underlined their quality by recovering from a 4-1 first leg deficit to eliminate Barcelona with a stunning 3-0 success in the second leg on Tuesday.
At the same time as Roma’s comeback for the ages, Liverpool were easing into the semi-finals with a 5-1 aggregate success against Premier League leaders Manchester City.
“I tried to think about what I feel, but it was not that I thought ‘Thank God not Bayern, thank God not Real Madrid, yippee Roma’ or the other way around,” Klopp told Liverpool’s website.
“Whichever opponent we would have got, I would have said there is a chance because it is football – so there is a chance against Roma.
“But if anybody think this is the easiest draw then I cannot help this person; they obviously didn’t see both games against Barcelona.
“The second leg was outstanding, it was outstanding what they did. They should have probably won four or five-nil – I was really impressed.”
– Special atmosphere –
Liverpool will host the first leg against Roma at Anfield on April 24 before heading to Italy for the return leg on May 2.
Asked if he felt playing the second leg at home — as they did against Barcelona — would be an advantage for Roma, Klopp insisted Liverpool could cope with the intense Stadio Olimpico atmosphere.
“The teams are all too strong. The atmosphere is always important, of course. In our tie it was not too important, in Real Madrid – Juventus it wasn’t too important, but for Rome it obviously was important,” he said.
“I think they will think it is an advantage, but it all depends on the first result. Of course, whatever happens, as long as you are in the race there is always a chance wherever it is, so I am fine with it.”
Liverpool fans gave a hostile reception to City in the quarter-final at Anfield, bombarding the team bus with bottles in shocking scenes outside the stadium.
Klopp apologised after that incident, but he expects the atmosphere in the stadium to be red-hot again.
“First leg at home, I am really looking forward to it because it will be a special atmosphere. It’ll be great,” he added.
Liverpool haven’t faced Roma since the 2002, but the still retain fond memories of the Eternal City after twice winning the European Cup there — once against Roma in their own stadium in 1984.
The tie will also give Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah a chance to face his old club.
Salah has been in superb form since leaving Roma to join Liverpool last year — scoring 39 goals.
“It makes it a really interesting thing and for him, it will be 100 per cent special. He is already of interest wherever we go, but it might go crazy when we go to Rome! He can deal with that, I am sure,” Klopp said.