It’s the Italian giants who hold the advantage after the first leg of this UEFA Europa League semi-final, but find out who is going to make it through thanks to our Bayer Leverkusen vs Roma prediction and Opta preview.
Bayer Leverkusen vs Roma: The Quick Hits
- Bayer Leverkusen the favourites to pick up the victory on the night in Germany, with the Opta supercomputer giving them a 48.5% chance.
- However, when adding together the chances of a draw and a Roma win, it’s the Serie A side who are favoured to advance into the final.
- José Mourinho aiming to make it back-to-back European finals, following their success in the UEFA Europa Conference League last season.
The José Mourinho vs Xabi Alonso psychodrama heads into its next phase as Bayer Leverkusen and Roma collide in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League semi-final on Thursday night.
Both managers will have taken positives from last week’s encounter at the Stadio Olimpico. The German side started and ended the game the stronger of the two, creating chances that might have left the Spaniard wondering “if only”, as a typically Mourinho-inspired performance from the Italians eventually saw them prevail and take a vital one-goal lead into the second leg which, if the record books are anything to go by, should stand them in good stead.
Roma have progressed from 23 of their last 25 two-legged ties in major European competitions when winning the first leg, whilst Bayer Leverkusen have only progressed from one of their 11 such two-legged ties when losing the first game, although that instance did come earlier this season when they dispatched Monaco in the UEFA Europa League play-offs.
However, trips to Germany haven’t been too friendly for the Serie A side, with Roma having won just two of their last 15 such matches (D1 L12) and winless in their last five trips (D1 L4) after defeating Hamburg in December 2000. And Leverkusen might just be believing it’s their time: Mourinho’s side have won just one of their last eight away games in Europe (D3 L4) failing to score in their last three such games.
We all know the Portuguese maestro is a bit of a special one when it comes to shutting down the opposition, but no goals on Thursday could prove a bit too much of a challenge to overcome.
Roma 1-0 Bayer Leverkusen: 11 May 2023 (UEFA Europa League)
A first European goal for Edoardo Bove was the only difference between the two sides in the Italian capital last week, as the 20-year-old capitalised on a good save from Tammy Abraham’s effort to net the rebound.
Leverkusen started on the front foot with both Robert Andrich and Florian Wirtz having good chances in the opening six minutes, something that will give Alonso confidence his side can attack from the get-go at BayArena. They will have to be wary about allowing Roma to grow into the game though, as only a fine save from a Roger Ibañez’s header kept the Italians out in the first half.
Jeremie Frimpong’s late effort after Rui Patricio’s error could have even seen Leverkusen come into this second leg all-square, but instead it’s Mourinho who will be hoping to make it to back-to-back European finals and try to maintain his perfect five from five record in such games with Porto, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Roma.
Previous Meeting Line-ups:
Roma: Rui Patrício, Ibañez, Bryan Cristante, Gianluca Mancini, Leonardo Spinazzola, Nemanja Matic, Edoardo Bove, Zeki Çelik, Lorenzo Pellegrini (c), Tammy Abraham, Andrea Belotti. Used Subs: Paulo Dybala, Georginio Wijnaldum
Bayer Leverkusen: Lukás Hrádecky (C), Edmond Tapsoba, Jonathan Tah, Odilon Kossounou, Piero Hincapié, Robert Andrich, Exequiel Palacios, Jeremie Frimpong, Florian Wirtz, Moussa Diaby, Adam Hlozek. Used Subs: Mitchel Bakker, Sardar Azmoun, Nadiem Amiri, Amine Adil
Perhaps ‘The Special One’ was preparing for what he hopes to do in the second leg as Roma produced their first goalless draw of the season against Bologna in Serie A over the weekend. But the reality is many of his ‘big name’ players like Abraham and Lorenzo Pellegrini were dropped to the bench, with Mourinho fielding his youngest ever starting line-up in Serie A. Perhaps that disjointed approach contributed to his side recording just 28.1% possession in this match, with only their game against Inter in April 2019 seeing them record a lower percentage in a Serie A since the top-flight returned to a 20-team set up (2004-05).
Mourinho’s hopes of playing in the UEFA Champions League next season pretty much now rest on success in Europe’s secondary club competition, after dropping points domestically in their last five games.
Bayer Leverkusen knew victory against struggling Stuttgart would see them climb back into sixth in the Bundesliga table, but in the end needed an Exequiel Palacios penalty to bail them out in a 1-1 draw, although the Argentinian was having to make amends for a fault earlier in the game, when he gave away a penalty of his own. It was the 13th point of the season that Leverkusen have recovered from a losing position, with only Köln (16) having recovered more.
Players to Watch
Bayer Leverkusen: Florian Wirtz
Having played just 30 minutes at the weekend, the 20-year-old is going to feel the weight of a fanbase upon his shoulders as he hopes to carry them through to the final. For the fans to demand that already speaks volumes for how quickly Wirtz has recovered after a ruptured ACL that cruelly disrupted his development.
The injury meant Wirtz wasn’t part of Leverkusen’s disappointing showing in the UEFA Champions League earlier in the season, but his influence is clear to see. Leverkusen have averaged 1.85 points per game in the Bundesliga when he’s played this season, compared to 1.41 without him.
The German international has found the back of the net on three occasions in their seven knockout matches so far and has provided a further two assists. He came close to opening the scoring in the first leg and turned provider for Frimpong’s late chance. Another step up in performance here could be enough to see Bayer advance.
Roma: The Returnees
An injury curse has hit Roma at just the wrong time in their charge this season, but we should see two rather important cogs return to action in Germany, even if their participation might be limited to a substitute appearance, dependent on the game situation.
Paulo Dybala has struggled to shake off an ankle injury that has reduced him to substitute appearances since the start of April and, even though he made an appearance in the first leg, the rumours are he will only be able to play a maximum of 30 minutes if he does make an appearance this time out. However, his haul of 16 goals and eight assists across all competitions this season could become vital if Roma do indeed find themselves chasing the game to book their spot in the final.
Another potential string to Mourinho’s bow will come at the other end of the pitch, with Chris Smalling set to make his return following a hamstring injury that the club have been gently nursing with the hope the Englishman will have a role to play down the stretch.
Bayer Leverkusen vs Roma Prediction
Mourinho’s men might hold the advantage heading into this second leg, but the Opta supercomputer sees Bayer Leverkusen as the most likely side to take the victory after 90 minutes on the night at the BayArena with 48.5% chance of doing so.
However, a similar run of the maths means that Roma have a 51.5% chance of either taking a draw or the victory themselves, which would be enough to guarantee their place in a second successive European final, having previously not reached a showpiece since the 1990-91 season.