Liverpool have one foot in the UEFA Champions League final but will still need to negotiate a minimum of a second 90 minutes against AS Roma in the coming week to confirm their participation in Kiev. An astounding 5-2 win in the home first leg earlier this week left the Liverpool faithfuls believing that they can make their first final appearance in 11 years.
The 2006-07 season was the last time Liverpool got to the final, but had to watch AC Milan exact revenge on them with a 2-1 win, two years after the former did the impossible to come back from three goals down to eventually lift the ultimate prize in Europe.
Roma has already done one incredible comeback in the quartefinals when they knocked out Spanish giants, Barcelona with a 3-0 win in the second leg in Rome. Ironically a similar result in the second leg against Liverpool will also put them through to the final but Dominic Matteo thinks that lightning is unlikely to strike twice.
"Liverpool were incredible. They could have had 7 or 8 goals," said Matteo in Kuala Lumpur. "The two late goals were a bit of a disappointing but when you’re caught in that atmosphere and euphoria, they might have got caught up in it.
"I think the tie is over. Roma already had their 3-0 against Barcelona and hopefully history won’t repeat itself. I think Liverpool will score away. The defenders, Van Dijk and Lovren still want their clean sheets. The Man City game, that nil at Anfield was vital.
"I’ve watched a lot of Roma this year, doing a bit of work for Italian football. They blow hot and cold. Catch them on a good day and they are very good, catch them on a bad day and it was like what happened in the first leg. Liverpool might have too much for them and I see Liverpool going to the final, most definitely."
During the exclusive interview with Goal, Matteo also went on to explain that whoever Liverpool's opponents are in the final, they should be the one fearing The Reds. Real Madrid take a 2-1 lead back to the Santiago Bernabeu against Bayern Munich and the two European giants will battle it out to determine who goes through.
"Don’t matter who you are, that front three will give anyone a tough time. Mane’s hitting form again, he had a bad period a little while. Firmino for me is the best; the key, the link man and very difficult to mark. Defence is the weakness for all the teams that are left. They way Liverpool are playing, Madrid would fear them, so would Bayern."
On Tuesday (Wednesday morning in Malaysia), Mohamed Salah struck his 40th and 41st goals of the season and is rightfully earning a lot of praise from all quarters and it is no different with Matteo. The 48-year-old is adamant that despite having already played well over 3300 minutes of football this season, Salah still have an abundance of energy left.
After the completion of the European season in which Salah could hit the 50 matches played mark should Liverpool reach the Champions League final, there would be genuine concern over the star's fitness levels going into the FIFA World Cup with Egypt but Matteo isn't worried about that at all.
"Burn-out, no. I was doing a commentary high in the stands at Anfield, third minute of injury and he runs past us like an Olympic sprinter. That guy is just a machine. I think he could be a star in the World Cup. The Egyptian team might thrive off of his presence.
"When you have a player like him or Ronaldo and Messi. You have to put him in that bracket now at this moment. If he keeps going down the road he’s going down, people will be watching him in the World Cup. He’s a worthy winner of the PFA.
"Kevin De Bruyne must be a little bit unlucky because he’s been outstanding. And for Salah to win it ahead of a championship winning player, he must have been outstanding."
Matteo who spent eight seasons with Liverpool between 1992 to 2000 and as a former centre back is certainly pleased that he don't have to face the likes of Salah in his time. Knowing what to do and to be able to do it in the circumstances during a match is a completely different matter.
"If you play against him and you’re a quality defender, you take him to his right foot. The first thing in my mind if I play against anyone who’s got a good foot, get him on his bad foot. But maybe the movement is so quick, they haven’t got a chance to move the body and get him that way. Can’t imagine teams aren’t looking at that.
"But because he makes so many runs into that area, you have to be a fit player to keep up with him. Against Liverpool and Salah, you have to play deep. Like Burnley did, just denying the space behind. Anyone who plays high against Liverpool, have got punished this year," he added.
Whoever reaches the final from the other section, be it Madrid or Bayern, it would quite a sight to see them sitting deep just to counter the attacking brilliance of Liverpool and Salah.