Roma are on English soil for a Europa Conference League semi-final on Thursday, ready to take on Leicester City.
The biggest game of the season for Roma – until next week’s return leg – puts them up against Leicester for the first time in each club’s history.
Both clubs are craving the chance of competing for a European trophy, but only one of them will be able to reach the final. Upon Roma’s first visit to the King Power Stadium, they will be hoping to take a positive first step.
To do so, Jose Mourinho will have to outwit Brendan Rodgers, who was once among his understudies at Chelsea. The last time they crossed paths in the Premier League, Rodgers’ Leicester beat Mourinho’s Tottenham 2-0 in north London, in December 2020. Now, it is all about what Mourinho can achieve with Roma.
The over-arching ambition is to end the club’s trophy drought in his first season, but beating Leicester over these two legs – and then winning the final – is the only remaining way to do so.
For the first instalment of that task, Mourinho will be relying on as strong a lineup as he can field, with a full complement of players at his disposal. For example, Bryan Cristante will be back in contention after missing the most recent league game, a defeat to Inter. Other than that, there are unlikely to be many changes.
Lorenzo Pellegrini should become the first ever Roma captain to represent the club in three different European semi-finals. Rick Karsdorp is also hoping to feature in a third last-four tie, as is Stephan El Shaarawy (whose own chances are albeit slightly slimmer, but still alive).
Up front, competition top-scorer Tammy Abraham will be up against an English club for the first time since leaving the Premier League with Chelsea for Roma last summer. He has never scored against Leicester in six previous meetings, though. Chris Smalling should also play against a club from his homeland, but Roma’s third Englishman Ainsley Maitland-Niles probably has less of a chance.Embed from Getty Images
As for the Foxes themselves, they enter this match on the back of a goalless draw with Aston Villa at the weekend. They could be ready to rely on Yorkshire-born Jamie Vardy again, whose pace could cause problems – although Rodgers is not sure the striker can complete 90 minutes yet.
Leicester’s only absentees are midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and veteran full-back Ryan Bertrand. The only player in their squad with Serie A experience is ex-Atalanta full-back Timothy Castagne, whereas Roma have six former Premier League players in their squad.
Those players – and their teammates – will be cheered on by a sold-out away section of lucky Roma fans, any English contingent of which will be getting the chance to watch their club play in their own country.
Hopefully it will be a happy trip for all of them and Roma can earn the result they need from the first leg.
The match kicks off at 8pm UK time and will be live on BT Sport 3.
Get in the mood for matchday by learning these AS Roma chants.