On Wednesday night, Roma will face their biggest challenge of the season: Barcelona away.
The Champions League quarter final draw pitted Roma against the La Liga leaders, and was immediately met with pessimism from Giallorossi fans.
Understandably so; Roma are massive underdogs for the game, with many fearing they will be no match for the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta. Overcoming the Catalan club will be a tall order, and even the most positive Roma fan would struggle to see how their side could advance.
But there is one thing Roma do have in their favour. Alisson Becker.
There has been arguably no better goalkeeper in world football in 2017-18 than Alisson. He has been extraordinary between the posts for Roma, regularly keeping out shots that would beat 99% of keepers. He has been an imposing presence in goal, and has often seemed impenetrable. In total, he has kept 17 clean sheets in all competitions this season. That’s nearly half the games he’s played.
Indeed, it is largely thanks to Alisson that Roma have even reached this stage of the competition. Had he not been in such good form at home to Atletico Madrid in the group stages, Roma would likely have lost that game – which would ultimately have put Atletico through at Roma’s expense. But thanks to Alisson’s heroics, a 0-0 draw was secured, and Roma went on to win Group C.
He made nine saves in that game, pivotal moments that kept the dream alive for Eusebio Di Francesco’s side.
Now, he looks to be Roma’s best chance of securing an unlikely upset against another strong La Liga outfit. Barcelona will be very dangerous in attack, and will create a lot of chances. As soon as Roma’s defence is bypassed, it will again be down to Alisson to keep his side in the game. He will have to thwart Barca’s clinical attackers by using every ounce of his ability. It’s a lot of pressure riding on one man’s shoulders, but if any goalkeeper can do it, it’s Alisson Becker.
Across the two legs, it’s almost certain that Barcelona will create more chances than Roma. They’ll have more possession and they’ll have more shots on goal. But if Alisson performs to the levels that have elevated him to the top of the goalkeeping world, he might just be able to give Roma a chance.
And if he does so, then you never know what could happen…