Roma vs. Barcelona (1-4)
“Perfect” is what the home side will have to be to overturn a three-goal deficit, and their manager is well aware.
“We must play with passion, heart, and belief right up until the final whistle if we want to do the unthinkable. We have a duty to give it everything.” – Eusebio Di Francesco, Roma coach
Roma will need to take the pitch at the Stadio Olimpico with courage, grit, and a particular type of dogma in front of over 72,000 fans with dreams of a miracle. In short-term memory, the Italians have not tasted defeat on home soil this entire competition, with the 3-0 drubbing of Chelsea in the group stages highlighting the current streak. In Italy, no opponent has been able to break down the Roma backline thus far in this tournament, giving Roma a 5-0 goal ratio while playing at home.
Also, working in their favor, the single goal they tallied at Camp Nou, meaning a 3-0 win would push them through with the away goal advantage. Now, we say these things with the utmost prudence as keeping Barcelona off the scoresheet is a feat of its own. In the last five matches, the Blaugrana has netted 14 goals, and have only been held scoreless once in the last 11 matches. Although they carry the three-goal advantage, the Barcelona boss is keen on playing this game as if it was 0-0 and focus is the key word being used around the clubs facilities leading up to this match.
“I’ve been in football a long time and know that extraordinary things can happen in football. We’ve got to ensure nothing extraordinary happens tomorrow. We can’t take to the field thinking they cannot compete with us. Having too much confidence could cost us dearly.” Ernesto Valverde, Barcelona coach
Playing with the Burden of having to overcome a 3 goal deficit is difficult against any competition, but imagine it vs. a team that thrives off possession, and when attacked, counters with the best of them. What does this all mean regarding this match? Well, when Roma started the first leg, they lined up in a 4-3-3 formation. They started 3 up front, but they served as a false front as Perotti and Florenzi dropped back and helped the midfield, giving them more of a 4-5-1 defensive look. Once Barca opened the scoresheet, Roma were forced to open up, and this is what we will see in the deciding leg.
Something like a 4-3-2-1 with Edin Džeko serving as the lone striker, but 2 attackers right behind him. Moments in this match will find Roma pressed high up the field as a unit and this is where Barcelona’s ability to counter will serve as the deciding factor. Jordi Alba and Nélson Semedo’s ability to turn defense into offense and run the lines rampant will ultimately wear down the Roma wings and midfield that will be caught having to get back and help defend. The slightest of mistakes will leave them exposed. Roma will come out energized, but if they fail to score early or give up an away goal, they could lose that intensity fairly quickly. I look for a mistake being made turning into fortune for Barcelona. Once Barca scores, throw out the tactics, they will find the net again. It’s not a matter of if, but more of when. I see it happening in the first 30 minutes of the game.
Barcelona -1 +110
Barcelona Moneyline -155
Barcelona Team Total over 1.5 –185
Barcelona HT / Barcelona FT +160
Manchester City vs. Liverpool (0-3)
The gameplan, to attack from the opening whistle in search of breaking through early and keeping the Etihad rocking. In the 179th edition of City vs. Pool in all competitions, Pep Guardiola’s team will look to attack but with a touch of balance as an away goal would be a back breaker forcing them to have to score 4 goals minimum.
“We know what we have to do – to try to attack, to try to break the counterattack. What we showed even in the last game we are able to create a lot of chances, even in a few minutes.” Pep Guardiola, City coach
The stress the Citizens will be playing with will work as an impulse to the home team helping them break through early, reverting the pressure back to Liverpool. If City scores 2 in the first half, how would Liverpool react? A repeat of September’s performance, where City beat up Liverpool 5-0, is what Guardiola is emphasizing in the dressing room. In that game, Sergio Agüero broke through in the 25th minute, but a Sane red card put an asterisk on the final score, leaving us to wonder what if. When the teams faced off again, we quickly found out, and Liverpool was able to defeat the Premier League leaders giving the public a reason to believe these teams are much more even than the Premier League standings report.
13 times this season, Manchester City has put up final scores that would at least push this game into extra time. On 9 occasions, they have scored 3 goals just in the second half of games alone, this team is never out of it, and they know that. The presence of Aguero will be all the difference in this match for the Sky Blues as he has netted 30 goals in 38 of his appearances this season.
Even further, the Argentinian striker has scored on the Reds 6 times in his career, all of those in the Etihad Stadium, I look for him to end up on the scoresheet once again. A tough match that will be fought to the bitter end, if City breaks through early, I could see the Citizens really having a chance.
Manchester City -1 -140
Manchester City Moneyline -215
City HT / City FT +105
First Half Over 1.5 +105
Both teams to score -180
Over 3 -164
Sergio Aguero anytime goal score -135
Match Result and Both Teams to Score: Man City/Yes +160
City Leading after 30 min +150
A penalty in the Match +160
Barcelona/City Moneyline Parlay