Rivals in the semi-finals, Alisson Becker and Roberto Firmino are the Brazilians who have to fight each other for thier place in the final.
On Wednesday two of Brazil’s stars of the domestic season go head-to-head hoping to secure a place in the biggest match in European club football.
It’s Roma versus Liverpool. It’s Alisson versus Firmino. And a UEFA Champions League Final slot is up for grabs.
The duo have been two of the standout Brazilians in European football this season. Both have guaranteed their place in Tite’s Brazil squad for World Cup 2018 next month, though only one is certain to play a major role in the Selecao’s quest for an unprecedented sixth world title.
Who's #Brasil's coach?
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How did they qualify?
Everything you need to know about the Selecao ahead of World Cup 2018 https://t.co/z4kAm4P8N7 pic.twitter.com/5nR83GAD0E — Brasil Global Tour (@BGT_ENG) April 5, 2018
After a year spent mostly warming the bench last season in Rome, Alisson has been perhaps the standout player for the Serie A club this season and forged a reputation as one of the top goalkeepers in world football while establishing himself as Tite’s undisputed no.1.
Roberto Firmino, meanwhile, is enjoying the best season of his career as part of a dynamic and ruthless attacking trio for Liverpool, starring between Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
Despite his brilliant form, however, the 26-year-old will have to make do with a place among the substitutes in Russia, reserve to first-choice centre-forward Gabriel Jesus.
They lock horns in the Eternal City on Wednesday with one of them carrying a healthy lead from the first-leg, as Firmino starred in Liverpool’s 5-2 demolition of Roma at Anfield with two goals and two assists.
With 27 goals so far this season, Firmino agrees he’s in the form of his life and this week killed speculation linking him with a move away from the Premier League by signing a new long-term deal with the club.
“The club have taken me in in an incredible way and I’ve grown a lot here with my work with the support of the whole team. I am very, very happy here,” he said.
“Everything fits in the best possible way. My teammates are fantastic and I am very grateful to be able to play with them at this club.”
Ten of Firmino’s goals this season have arrived in the Champions League, leaving him the competition’s joint-second top-scorer alongside Salah, five behind runaway leader Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Brazilian has also contributed seven of his 15 assists this term in European competition, numbers that prove just how integral a role he is playing in Liverpool’s all-firing frontline.
With Firmino and co. arriving in Italy with a three-goal advantage, his international colleague Alisson will play a huge role in the opposition goal. If Roma are to replicate their stunning comeback against Barcelona in the previous round, Alisson will have to have another perfect evening.
And recent history bodes well, with Roma yet to concede a single goal at home in this season’s Champions League. Alisson has been key to that record, making a stunning 43 saves in the tournament so far – a full nine clear of the next highest and 19 more than Keylor Navas, who has the most saves of the other three goalkeepers left in the competition.
With his remarkable form Alisson join the debate over who is currently the best around.
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"Alisson is certainly the best goalkeeper in the world right now," former Roma and Italy custodian Paolo Conti told Radio Centro Suono Sport. “I said Alisson was excellent a long while back and now he is simply priceless. He has great intelligence and anticipates the moves of the opposition team.
And despite endless speculation of a mega-money move to Spain or England, Roma insist their prize asset is going nowhere. "Why should I let him go? He's under contract and I love him. I never wanted to sell him when he talked about it two years ago,” said club president James Pallotta. “I thought he was great and he is showing how good he is.”
Brazil coach Tite will no doubt be casting a keen eye over the tie this week, though only to discover which one of them will be forced to report a week late for Brazil’s World Cup preparations due to their UEFA Champions League final commitements.