Roma will be anxious of history repeating itself against Barcelona in Uefa Champions League
Last time the Serie A side visited Camp Nou they were trounced 6-1
Roma’s players looked bewildered after Lionel Messi finished off a 27-pass move in an Uefa Champions League group game three years ago.
Luis Enrique’s Barca hammered his former team 6-1 at Camp Nou and the Romans were a class below.
“We were lucky to lose only 6-1 actually,” admitted Roma striker Edin Dzeko, while his manager Rudi Garcia added: “Right now Barca is unstoppable, it’s not a coincidence that they just beat [Real] Madrid 4-0.”
The pair meet again on Wednesday night in Camp Nou in a Champions League last eight game. Roma will be doing everything they can to avoid a repeat, but they face a tough task to avoid a similar fate.
They will face Messi too, who saved Barcelona’s unbeaten Primera Liga run at Sevilla at the weekend and who has scored 12 goals in nine games against Serie A sides.
Messi is in great form and has netted in his last seven Barca games, the latest in that dramatic finish at Sevilla which maintained the 31-game unbeaten run this season.
Messi hopes to add to his 100 Champions League goals. Messi and Luis Suarez, both of whom scored in the aforementioned 6-1 rout, have scored 32 goals between them in the first three months of 2018. Surprisingly, Suarez is yet to score in European competition so far this season.
Barca are in a position where they can field their strongest side, and Ernesto Valverde wants to play the same team which beat Chelsea at home in the last 16.
The starting XI is likely to be Marc-Andre Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, Jordi Alba; Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta; Ousame Dembele, Messi and Suarez.
All have played at least six of Barcelona’s eight Champions League games. Philippe Coutinho cannot play after representing Liverpool in the competition this season.
Barcelona, in the last eight for the 11th consecutive season, need to be cautious. Though they have only lost five of their 19 European Cup quarter-finals, three of those defeats have come in the last four years, twice against Atletico Madrid and against Juventus last season.
The Catalans haven’t been beaten at home in 25 Champions League games, but given what happened to them last season in Italy when they were beaten 3-0 by Juventus in the last eight, they want a convincing win on Wednesday to alleviate the danger of an early exit again.
They also want a clean sheet, but this Barca side is more capable of that than any in memory.
Valverde has made his side defensively solid and they have kept 16 clean sheets in their home games so far this season, including five in the last six matches.
Roma, playing in the last eight for the first time in a decade, are in form. Third in Serie A, they were on a five-game winning run before Saturday’s draw at Bologna.
That run included knocking Shakhtar Donetsk out of the competition and a superb 4-2 win at second place Napoli.
That 6-1 trouncing was the only time Barca have beaten Roma in four meetings and Eusebio Di Francesco’s side welcome back Radja Nainggolan and Lorenzo Pellegrini from injury. Both came off in the weekend game at Bologna.
Roma are clear underdogs and they will need to hang in against a side who tend to start slowly and move up through their gears to finish strongly.
Only five of Barca’s 76 league goals this season have come in the first 15 minutes. Roma have conceded eight of their 24 Serie A goals in the last 15 minutes of matches.
Roma lost in Ukraine against Shakhtar in the first leg last month before a 1-0 victory at home saw them through on away goals.
Losing on Wednesday is almost expected. But being hit for six again will kill off their European hopes.
Updated: April 3, 2018 05:29 PM