Roma vs Bayer Leverkusen: Europa League Preview, Lineups & Prediction

Stadio Olimpico forms the backdrop for the first leg of a heavyweight Europa League semi-final tie between Roma and Bayer Leverkusen. Thursday’s showdown in Rome could prove crucial to the home side’s bid to add another European silverware to their trophy cabinet. 

Since a 4-1 second-leg victory over Feyenoord in their Europa League quarter-final tie, Jose Mourinho’s men have been in freefall. Last weekend’s 2-0 home loss to fierce rivals Inter condemned the Giallorossi to a fourth straight Serie A game without winning (D2, L2), dropping them outside European placings. 

With a first top-four finish in Serie A since 2018/19 now looking increasingly unlikely, the emphasis is on making a standout achievement in the Europa League. After guiding Roma to their first-ever European success during last season’s triumphant Europa Conference League campaign, Mourinho hopes to emulate that result in Europe’s second-tier competition.

Lifting the Europa League crown is seemingly the only route into next season’s Champions League for Roma. But the Giallorossi will have to roll up their sleeves to overcome high-flying Leverkusen in only their fifth-ever European encounter. Yet, Cologne’s unexpected 2-1 win at the BayArena last Friday may have derailed the visitors’ spirits.

Despite experiencing an abysmal start to the season and a horrendous Champions League group-stage campaign, the Germans have recovered under Xabi Alonso. The Spaniard’s impressive work has helped Leverkusen reach the semi-finals of a major European competition for only the fourth time, last coming this far in the 2001/02 Champions League season.

And like Roma, they are also on the verge of missing out on a top-four finish in their domestic championship, highlighting the significance of taking home the Europa League trophy. With that in mind, this promises to be a treat for the neutrals. 

Match Preview


A 4-2 aggregate triumph over Feyenoord in the previous knockout round helped Roma book a semi-final date in major European competition for the third season running. Despite their relatively underwhelming title record on the continental front, the Giallorossi have been victorious in ten of their last 11 European knockout ties. That could inspire confidence in the home camp amid this rotten patch.

On top of that, Roma defeated Leverkusen in their most recent European clash at the Stadio Olimpico courtesy of a 3-2 win in the 2015/16 Champions League group stages. Furthermore, the Italians boast a formidable European record on home soil, having suffered just one defeat in their last 24 UEFA-sanctioned fixtures in Rome (W17, D6). 

Player to Watch: Lorenzo Pellegrini

Pellegrini has been a talismanic figure in Europe, with Roma going unbeaten in all six of his scoring appearances at the Stadio Olimpico in European action (W5, D1). Therefore, Mourinho will hope his captain can get on the scoresheet on Thursday.

Bayer Leverkusen

After dispatching Belgian outfit Royale Union Saint-Gilloise 4-2 on aggregate in the Europa League quarter-finals, Alonso’s men have blown hot and cold across their three Bundesliga outings (W1, D1, L1). However, Leverkusen’s stellar away form outside the German borders in 2023 has seen them win all three Europa League knockout legs on the road by an aggregate score of 9-3.

Those results form part of Die Werkself’s outrageous run of nine unbeaten competitive matches outside the BayArena (W6, D3), with Alonso’s rock-solid backline registering four shutouts in the last five. In stark contrast to this eye-catching away form, the 2002 Champions League runners-up have gone winless in all six European clashes against Italian opposition on the road in the 21st century (D1, L5). 

Player to Watch: Florian Wirtz

Widely considered one of Europe’s finest talents, Wirtz has lived up to the billing during the Europa League knockout phase, tallying more goal contributions (five) than any other player. The prodigious forward has clocked three goals and two assists thus far.

Team News

With Rick Karsdorp and Marash Kumbulla ruled out with injuries, Mourinho may have to make several defensive alterations, especially considering Diego Llorente has failed to impress the Roma boss. But the hosts will have a star-studded frontline fit and ready. 

As for Leverkusen, standout forward Patrik Schick is the only notable absentee. Yet, it’s worth noting that Alonso’s lads have come this far without last season’s highest goalscorer. In addition to the Czech Republic international, Charles Aranguiz will remain on the sidelines.

Roma vs Bayer Leverkusen Potential Lineups

Roma (3-4-2-1): Rui Patricio; Gianluca Mancini, Bryan Cristante, Roger Ibanez; Nicola Zalewski, Nemanja Matic, Georginio Wijnaldum, Leonardo Spinazzola; Lorenzo Pellegrini, Paulo Dybala; Tammy Abraham.

Bayer Leverkusen (3-4-3): Lucas Hradecky; Odilon Kossounou, Jonathan Tah, Piero Hincapie; Jeremie Frimpong, Robert Andrich, Edmond Tapsoba, Mitchell Bakker; Moussa Diaby, Amine Adli, Florian Wirtz.

Roma vs Bayer Leverkusen Prediction

Having clashed four times before in European competitions, these teams have witnessed a victory apiece and a staggering tally of 19 goals, averaging at 4.8 per match. Considering Roma’s pragmatic approach under Mourinho, it is improbable for Thursday’s encounter to be as wide open, but the Giallorossi should still secure an all-important first-leg advantage. 

Prediction: Roma Win

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