Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen host Roma, with a UEFA Europa League final berth on the line. - © IMAGO/Weis/TEAM2sportphoto
Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen host Roma, with a UEFA Europa League final berth on the line. - © IMAGO/Weis/TEAM2sportphoto

5 reasons Bayer Leverkusen will beat Roma in the UEFA Europa League - AGAIN!


Still unbeaten in 2023/24 and with a 2-0 cushion from the first leg, Xabi Alonso's Bayer Leverkusen hold all the cards in their UEFA Europa League semi-final tie with Roma. bundesliga.com has five reasons why the Bundesliga champions will punch their ticket to the final...

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1) First-leg blueprint

Leverkusen ran out deserved 2-0 winners in Rome, thanks to goals from Florian Wirtz and Robert Andrich. Lady Luck was on their side when Romelu Lukaku headed against the woodwork at 0-0 and Tammy Abraham fluffed his lines at the death, but it was otherwise a brilliantly mature display by the Bundesliga champions. As has been the case time and again this season, Alonso got his tactics spot on, with Jeremie Frimpong and Álex Grimaldo deployed in slightly more advanced wing roles, and Wirtz assuming false nine duties. Bayer controlled the game for long periods, and could have added a goal or two more to their tally. The Spanish tactician could rinse and repeat on home soil, but don't be surprised if he sets his side up slightly differently, given that Roma have to go all out for the win. Whoever he plumps for, the result will almost certainly be the same.

2) Wirtz is on fire…

…Roma should be terrified. Wirtz moved on to 37 goal involvements for the season (18 goals, 19 assists), with his opener in the first leg. That’s 11 more than Roma’s biggest goal threat, Paulo Dybala, and the Leverkusen talisman hasn't even started Bayer's last four league fixtures. Despite being given the preservative treatment for the run-in, the Germany international has still produced some big goals from the bench, including a title-clinching hat-trick against Werder Bremen. He was also the super-sub catalyst for last-gasp equalisers against Borussia Dortmund and VfB Stuttgart. Last Sunday, in the 5-1 rout of Eintracht Frankfurt, the 21-year-old was rested altogether. Imagine how fresh he'll be by the time Roma rock up at the BayArena on Thursday.

Watch: Florian Wirtz has scored some of Leverkusen's best Bundesliga goals in 2023/24

3) Never-ending strength in depth

It's because of Leverkusen's luxuriously deep squad that Alonso has been able to juggle domestic and European commitments so effectively. He made eight changes in Frankfurt on Sunday, with assist king Grimaldo given the afternoon off alongside Wirtz. Thoroughbred strikers Patrik Schick and Victor Boniface both scored after being introduced in the second half, while influential holding midfielder Andrich began the contest in the middle of a back three. The electric Frimpong was another player to get on the scoresheet after stepping off the bench; defenders Piero Hincapié and Jonathan Tah were also spared the full 90 minutes. And to top it all off, Alonso was orchestrating proceedings from the stands due to a mandatory one-match touchline ban. As for Roma, five of the players that started the Leverkusen defeat began Sunday's 1-1 draw with Juventus.

A much-changed Leverkusen team put in a supremely polished performance against Eintracht Frankfurt. - IMAGO/HMB Media

4) Air of invincibility

Leverkusen's routine win in Frankfurt made it 48 competitive games in a row without defeat since a 3-0 loss to Bochum on the final day of last season. Die Werkself had already broken Juventus' record for longest unbeaten run across Europe's top five leagues - now they've matched Benfica's Europe-wide gold standard, set some 59 years ago. Bayer don't always cruise like in Frankfurt, but they do invariably find a way to get a result - just ask the likes of Dortmund, Stuttgart, Bayern Munich, Hoffenheim and Europa League quarter-final opponents Qarabağ. The latter led Leverkusen 2-0 home and away, before now trademark Better Late than Neverkusen shows rescued a 2-2 draw and 3-2 win respectively. In these parts, it ain't over until the BayArena sings.

Watch: Leverkusen - Treble Bid Ongoing

5) History in the making

Staying unbeaten isn't Leverkusen's only objective. Already Bundesliga champions, the Rhineland outfit formally known as 'Neverkusen' are on the hunt for a historic continental treble. If they avoid defeat at home to Roma, Die Werkself will be through to the Europa League final, where the winner of the other last-four tie between Marseille and Atalanta awaits. That match-up is slated for 22 May, three days before Bayer face Bundesliga 2 outfit Kaiserslautern in the final of the DFB Cup. Leverkusen infamously fell at the final hurdle in the Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League and DFB Cup in 2001/02. On current form, they're going to clear every last one.