Bayer Leverkusen vs Roma Preview

Taking a slender lead with them to Germany, Roma seek a place in the Europa League final when they visit Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday, in the second leg of the clubs' semi-final tie.

Last year's Europa Conference League winners won 1-0 in the Italian capital last week, but their hosts still have hope of securing a spot in the competition's climactic showpiece, where either Juventus or Sevilla will await.

While Bayer Leverkusen have lost just once in their last 11 away matches across all competitions, that sole reverse came in surely the most important game of all - their semi-final first-leg clash in Rome last Thursday.

Having now been beaten in each of their last seven UEFA competition contests versus Serie A sides, the Rhine club cannot afford to let that streak continue in this week's return, as only victory offers a route through to the Europa League final, to be held at Budapest's Puskas Arena on the last day of May.

Over the past decade, only three teams have gone on to progress after losing their semi-final opener, but Leverkusen have already beaten both RB Leipzig and Bayern Munich at home this season - in addition to toppling Atletico Madrid during the Champions League group stage.

Head coach Xabi Alonso - who was managed by Roma boss Jose Mourinho for three seasons at Real Madrid - recently led his team to a 14-game unbeaten run in all competitions, which featured 10 wins and drew interest in the rookie coach's services from several clubs across the continent.

However, Sunday's 1-1 draw with Bundesliga strugglers Stuttgart followed two defeats already suffered this month. As a result, Die Werkself have won none of their last four matches, and as they sit seventh in the domestic standings, winning the Europa League could also provide their best route back into continental competition.

Since dropping out of the Champions League last autumn, Leverkusen have eliminated Monaco, Ferencvaros and Union Saint-Gilloise to travel this far in Europe's second-tier tournament, and they will surely believe their deficit can be overturned; securing a first UEFA final since 2002.