Bayer Leverkusen host Roma in the Europa League semi-final second leg on Thursday. Jose Mourinho’s team hold a slender lead from the first leg a week ago. Last season’s Europa Conference League winners face Xabi Alonso’s side for a place in the final against either Sevilla or Juventus.
Die Werkself are winless in four matches coming into the second leg. Prior to travelling to Rome, they saw a 14-game unbeaten streak ended in a 2-1 home loss to Cologne. They had 62% possession in a 1-0 first leg loss to Roma, conceding around the hour mark. Over the weekend, Alonso’s side could only draw 1-1 at relegation-threatened VfB Stuttgart.
Prior to this winless streak, they were on a great run. They beat Ferencvaros 2-0 home and away in the round of 16 and progressed past Royal Union Saint-Gilloise 5-2 on aggregate in the quarter-finals. The unbeaten run also saw a 2-1 home win against Bayern Munich and a 2-0 home victory over RB Leipzig. Recent dropped points have seen them fall 10 points off the top four in the Bundesliga.
Leverkusen Team News
Centre back Odilon Kossounou went off injured in the first leg and remains a doubt for this one. If he misses out, then Piero Hincapie could drop into the back three with Mitchel Bakker starting as the left wingback. Robert Andrich also took a knock in that game and is facing a late fitness test.
Xabi Alonso rested Florian Wirtz and handed Sardar Azmoun a start for the Stuttgart game. The latter is battling 20-year-old Adam Hlozek for the number nine role. Patrik Schick remains out injured long-term.
This match is Leverkusen’s only route into next season’s UEFA Champions League. They will be hugely motivated to turn the tie around at home.
They’ve played away in the second leg in the three previous rounds and won each match. They now have a chance to win this tie in a match where they could have two thirds of the possession.
Some recent dropped points in Serie A have seen the gap to the top four increase to six points with just three fixtures left. They’re winless in five in the league. They lost 3-1 at Atalanta and 2-0 at home to Inter Milan during that run, as well as drawing 1-1 at home with AC Milan and 1-1 at Monza.
On Sunday, they had just 28% possession in a 0-0 draw away at Bologna as Mourinho picked many second-string players. They reached the semi-final stage by overturning a 1-0 loss to Feyenoord in a 4-1 home victory after extra time. Last week’s first leg win against Leverkusen saw Edoardo Bove get the winner in a match where they had just 38% of the ball at home.
Roma Team News
Mourinho has been dealing with a number of injuries. Chris Smalling has missed most of the last month, on-loan Diego Llorente is injured and another centre back in Marash Kumbulla is injured long-term. Bryan Cristante covered well in the middle of the back three last week. Smalling could be back on the bench for this one.
Right wingback Rick Karsdorp is doubtful. Further forward, Paulo Dybala is probably only fit enough for a sub outing. Tammy Abraham is set to play up front. In the first leg, Andrea Belotti partnered him in a 3-5-2 but this one could see Gini Wijnaldum come into the XI with Lorenzo Pellegrini playing in support of Abraham.
Mourinho rested more than half of his starting XI over the weekend. Their full focus is on this match and reaching the final. He will be desperate for another European crown and to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Expect Roma to be very defensive in this one with hardly any possession. They will play quite direct and have Abraham chasing lost causes up front.
Bayer Leverkusen have won 4 of their last 6 Europa League matches
Leverkusen have lost their last 2 matches vs AS Roma
Leverkusen are winless in 4 matches (DLLD)
Roma have just 1 win in their last 11 away matches (lost 6, drew 4)
Roma’s last 7 away matches have seen just 3 goals scored (4 blanks)
Roma have failed to score in their last 3 away Europa League matches
This should be a hard-fought game with Roma sitting back and trying to protect their 1-0 first leg lead. They’re poor on the road but you can never write off Mourinho in a European tie. Leverkusen may win this match by one goal and send the tie into extra time.