In their Europa League semifinal match, Leverkusen seeks retribution from Roma.

Europa League semifinal match MILAN: After yet another incredible comeback preserved their incredible unbeaten run, Bayer Leverkusen will be looking for retribution on Thursday when they travel to a second Europa League semi-final against AS Roma in as many years.

In their Europa League semifinal match

Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen team was filmed celebrating Roma’s victory over AC Milan in the last eight, and Thursday’s first leg at the Stadio Olimpico is a chance to forget about being ‘Mourinhoed’ in last season’s last four.

Already a formidable force last season, Leverkusen’s incredible run of 46 games without defeat and their first Bundesliga title make them favourites to reach the final in Dublin.

And the team that ended Bayern Munich’s dominance in German football wants retribution for the 1-0 aggregate loss that resulted in Roma’s agonising penalty shootout defeat to Sevilla in last season’s final.

“We have a desire for revenge and a strong desire to win and advance to the final,” Leverkusen CEO Fernando Corro told Radio Marca. “We want to get to the final at all costs.”

Leverkusen has scored 16 goals in stoppage time this season across all competitions, the most recent coming in the 96th minute of Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Stuttgart.

And it’s been their penchant for late strikes that has propelled them back to the Europa League semi-finals, with former Roma player Patrik Schick scoring three times in extra time in their 5-4 last-16 victory over Qarabag, and two more late goals helping them defeat West Ham United in the quarter-finals.

Coach Alonso said his team’s ability to claw back results at the end was “hard to explain” after Robert Andrich snatched a point at Stuttgart, but he hopes it continues for the rest of the season.

“Our main objective was to become champions, but now we don’t want to stop,” added Alonso to Sky. “The goal is clear. We hope to remain undefeated until the end of the season.”

Roma salvaged a late point at Napoli on Sunday thanks to a late goal from Tammy Abraham, the England international striker’s first in a year following a long knee injury layoff. “I’ve got players who are trying to get something out of this season,” Roma coach Daniele De Rossi told DAZN after the Napoli draw.

“We know it’s going to be difficult.. we have to find the results we need to get into the Champions League or win the Europa League.”

Leverkusen seeks

De Rossi will be boosted by Romelu Lukaku’s return alongside Paulo Dybala, who has recovered from a thigh problem.

Chris Smalling, who missed Napoli due to a groin injury, returns, as does midfield lynchpin Leandro Paredes, who was suspended for the hard-fought draw at the weekend.

“We have to be perfect, because if they don’t ever lose and have the heart to score in the final seconds so often it means that they have something special,” De Rossi told ESPN. “They’re unbeaten, but they’re not unbeatable.”

In the other last-four matchup, Olympique de Marseille will face Atalanta on Thursday.

Marseille, who lost the Europa League final in 2018, would not be favourites in the final and are also likely to be underdogs against Atalanta, who defeated Liverpool in the previous round.

However, their star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has 27 goals in 46 games across all competitions since joining from Chelsea, could make the difference.

“He has scored a lot of goals and done so everywhere he has played. He is the top scorer in the Europa League,” Marseille president Pablo Longoria told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “We hope he will make his mark against Atalanta and stay with us until the end of his career.”

retribution from Roma.

On Thursday, Premier League side Aston Villa will face Greek outfit Olympiakos, while Italian club Fiorentina will compete for a spot in the final against Belgium’s Club Brugge.

Published in Dawn on May 2, 2024.

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