Unbeaten but not unbeatable. Roma coach De Rossi believes he has the plan to defeat Leverkusen

Wed, May 1, 2024
Soccer News (AP)

Unbeaten but not unbeatable. Roma coach De Rossi believes he has the plan to defeat Leverkusen

ROME (AP) - The Bundesliga title. The record 46-match unbeaten run. The 3-0 shutout of Bayern Munich.

Forget about all of that for now.

Bayer Leverkusen has been thinking about its next opponent for an entire year.

The German club will be seeking revenge when it visits Roma in the first leg of the Europa League semifinals on Thursday - a rematch from last season at the same stage when Jose Mourinho's Giallorossi advanced to the final.

"We were so close to go to the final last season and we didn't like the way we went out," Leverkusen defender Jonathan Tah told The Associated Press in an interview. "So I was actually hoping to play against them again."

Last May, Roma beat Leverkusen 1-0 at the Stadio Olimpico in the first leg before a scoreless draw in Leverkusen. The loss in Rome was Leverkusen's last defeat in Europe and penultimate loss across all competitions before a 3-0 defeat to Bochum in the final round of last season's Bundesliga.

"From the first Europa League game against (Swedish team) Häcken, we spoke about our experience in Rome and now we're back in the same situation, semifinal vs. Roma," Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso said. "Hopefully we can use this experience well."

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In Thursday's other semifinal, Atalanta visits Marseille.

Leverkusen's streak of 46 games without a loss is a record across Europe's "big five" leagues.

But that hasn't stopped Daniele De Rossi - who replaced Mourinho in January as Roma's coach - from believing Leverkusen can be beaten again.

"We need to stretch them and move them out of position when they don't have the ball," De Rossi said. "They have very good players who pass the ball well and they have a lot of dangerous forwards. If you take the ball away from them, they get nervous, they lose balance and they lose their shape.

"We'll have to play both phases perfectly because if they never lose, and, above all, have the heart to draw (many) games in the final few minutes then they have something special," De Rossi added. "They're unbeaten but there's no such thing as unbeatable."

Roma is aiming to qualify for its third consecutive European final after winning the Europa Conference League in 2022 and losing last year's Europa League final to Sevilla in a penalty shootout.

De Rossi and Alonso faced each other six times as players with their clubs and national teams, with Alonso on the winning side in four of those matchups.

"I fear everything about them but my Roma believes in itself," De Rossi said.


Atalanta has been surpassing expectations for years but the club from Bergamo is still missing a trophy and the Europa League provides one of two upcoming opportunities to crown its modern era along with the Italian Cup final against Juventus on May 15.

Gian Piero Gasperini's side was praised worldwide when it reached the Champions League quarterfinals in pandemic-hit 2020 - just as Bergamo became the epicenter of the coronavirus.

This season, Atalanta stunned Liverpool in the quarterfinals.

The only top-tier trophy that Atalanta has ever won was the 1963 Italian Cup.

Marseille has lost its last three semifinals in the competition and is seeking its first major European trophy since winning the inaugural Champions League in 1993.

The final will be held in Dublin on May 22.


AP Sports Writer James Ellingworth in Leverkusen contributed to this report.


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