The Champions League football resumes today with a first leg semi-final game between the unlikely rivals at this stage of the competition. While tomorrow’s opponents, powerful Bayern Munich and reigning champions Real Madrid, were pretty much expected participants of the semifinals, Liverpool vs AS Roma certainly wasn’t the fixture most of the football fans expected to see in the last four of the Europe’s elite competition.
That goes in particular considering the strength of their quarter-final rivals, but after eliminating Manchester City and Barcelona in style, Liverpool and Roma now have a great opportunity to reach the Kiev final. And the Reds have one big and familiar supporter ahead of the tie, in the shape of Lazio midfielder Lucas Leiva. The Brazilian joined i Biancocelesti after ten seasons spent at Liverpool, and still holds the club close to his heart:
“It will be a great night, for sure. For the players, a good experience.
“It’s a big game, a semi-final. It maybe won’t be that different from some games that I experienced with Liverpool – the Europa League, that game against Dortmund and then Villarreal.
“I’m looking forward to it and I’ll be supporting Liverpool for sure.”
Although he seems to be regretting for not playing many matches of this stature for the Reds in the Champions League, Leiva knows the atmosphere at the Anfield is a huge asset for the English club. He won’t be a part of it, but Leiva announced he won’t miss the chance to give his former club support in the return leg in Rome:
“I’m still thinking about it, but I’m hoping I can go to the Liverpool end and watch the game – and maybe take some of my friends and my son,” he said.
“We still follow Liverpool a lot, we watch every game and I hope they can get to the final.”
Besides reuniting with one of their favourite players of the last decade at the Stadio Olimpico, Liverpool fans were warned by him not to take slightly today’s opponent, as La Lupa are on a high following their impressive and shocking comeback against Barcelona, winning the second leg 3-0 to advance on away goals rule. Leiva got to know them well himself, facing them two times in Derby della Capitale, the second just recently in a goalless draw:
“They are full of confidence of course after the win against Barca,” Lucas explained. “Fair play to them because they played really well and I think they deserved it. The boost that gave them is massive.
“But in the city, one side will be supporting the Reds – the Lazio fans – because they don’t want to see their rival going to the final of course, but the other side of Rome is really excited, so it is going to be a big, big semi-final and let’s see what is going to happen.
“I would say Roma is a very aggressive team. They play a Premier League style of play I would say. They press very high and they have some quick players.
“They also have [Edin] Džeko and he is a big player for them. Liverpool will know him very well.”
However, Lucas Leiva believes a first game advantage for Liverpool, as the one gained versus Man City, should be decisive in this tie:
“We can expect a very good semi-final, but I think Liverpool have all the tools and the power to win because we could see against Manchester City how strong Anfield is.
“Having a good result in the first game could be the key as well for the second game here in Rome.”
Leiva will certainly enjoy the Champions League football at the Olimpico – something he hopes to experience with Lazio next season as well, as Le Aquile are on a good way to reach the competition group stage. The Brazilian was instrumental in good results so far in the season and is already one of fans’ favourite. Just as he was at Anfield.