UEFA Europa League

Bayer Leverkusen v Roma: Oppose Mourinho at your peril

Roma boss Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho is chasing another European trophy with Roma

Roma visit Bayer Leverkusen with a 1-0 first-leg lead in the UEL semi-finals, and Kevin Hatchard believes they'll be able to protect it.

  • Roma have recent experience of reaching a final

  • Leverkusen have mixed UEL record at home

  • Roger Ibanez's misbehaviour can spark Bet Builder


Can "Neverkusen" finally grab the glory?

If you look at the history of Bayer Leverkusen, it is littered with ifs, buts and maybes. They have been runners-up in the Bundesliga five times (all in a period between 1997 and 2011), but have never won the meisterschale.

Die Werkself reached the Champions League final in 2002, only for a stunning Zinedine Zidane volley to deny them against Real Madrid at Hampden Park. They have reached four DFB Pokal finals, and lost three of them.

Now European glory beckons, and Xabi Alonso hopes to succeed where the likes of Jupp Heynckes and Klaus Toppmöller once failed.

Alonso has rescued what was developing into a nightmare season, but if Bayer fall here against Roma and fail to qualify for Europe through the Bundesliga, it will still have been a desperately disappointing campaign.

Xabi Alonso Leverkusen Europa.jpg

Bayer started well last week, making some presentable chances, although their keeper and captain Lukas Hradecky was also kept busy at the other end.

A 1-0 defeat at the Stadio Olimpico isn't the worst result, but Bayer know they'll now have to produce one of their best displays of the season to reach their first European final for 21 years.

Leverkusen have won seven and lost three of their last ten home games in the Bundesliga, but in Europe it's a mixed picture. Bayer lost to Monaco, beat Ferencvaros and drew with Union Saint-Gilloise.

Although they have beaten Bayern and RB Leipzig at home in 2023, they were a little fortunate to overcome the latter, and they lost to Dortmund at the BayArena in late January.

Influential midfield destroyer Robert Andrich is struggling with an ankle injury, so Kerem Demirbay could deputise. Adam Hlozek may return to the attack, with Iranian international Sardar Azmoun making way.

Roma looking to establish golden age

Jose Mourinho Roma 1280.jpg

Roma boss Jose Mourinho is already idolised by fans of the Giallorossi, but if he adds the Europa League trophy to the Europa Conference League he won last season, he'll surely go down as one of the greatest managers in the club's history.

Mourinho has clearly prioritised this competition, as Roma's push for Champions League qualification through their Serie A placing has faltered.

They have won just four of their last 12 games in the league, and are currently six points behind city rivals Lazio in the race for fourth spot.

If they don't improve in the final three top-flight games, they might miss out on Europe entirely.

Roma should be able to welcome back some big hitters for their most important game of the season. Gini Wijnaldum should be able to start, and Mourinho will have to make a decision about whether to play Paulo Dybala and Chris Smalling, who have struggled with injury of late.

21-year-old academy product Edoardo Bove is in line for another start, having scored the only goal of the first leg.

Hard to go against Mourinho the master

This is the kind of situation where Jose Mourinho comes alive as a coach, finding ways to battle or sneak through a two-legged tie.

Finding a way to negate the threat of Florian Wirtz, Moussa Diaby and Jeremie Frimpong will have occupied his mind for some time.

In the first leg Bayer were reduced to just one shot on target and a modest xG figure of 1.13 according to our friends at Infogol.

Roma have recent experience of winning a major European trophy, and despite some poor results on the road in Europe, I think they'll find a way to reach the final.

You could back Roma to qualify at 1.625/8, but instead I'll go for Roma +0.5 on the Asian Handicap at 1.8810/11. We only lose if Roma lose inside 90 minutes.

Back Roma +0.5 on the Asian Handicap @

1.88

Rash Roger worth keeping an eye on

Roma defender Roger Ibanez has made big errors in key games this season, and can often be caught out by speedy and skilful opponents.

The 24-year-old Brazilian will face plenty of those on Thursday night, so I'm happy to back him to be shown a card at 23/10.

Ibanez has picked up 14 yellow cards in all competitions this term, he was booked in the first leg, and he was sent off in the Rome derby in March.

Back Roger Ibanez to be shown a card @

23/10

If you want a Bet Builder, you could go for Moussa Diaby to have 2+ shots (he averages well above that figure in both the Bundesliga and Europa League), Ibanez and Leonardo Spinazzola to commit 1+ fouls (Spinazzola will be up against the speedy Jeremie Frimpong) and Over 7.5 Corners.

That gives us a combination of 2.915/8.

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