Liverpool return to Rome for toughest European test

Uefa Cup draw offers Gérard Houllier's side chance to relive past glory in Stadio Olimpico
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The Independent Online

Memories, good and bad, were stirred by the Mersey and the Tiber yesterday as the Uefa Cup quarter-final draw pitted Liverpool against Roma in a repeat of the 1984 European Cup final.

Memories, good and bad, were stirred by the Mersey and the Tiber yesterday as the Uefa Cup quarter-final draw pitted Liverpool against Roma in a repeat of the 1984 European Cup final.

That match, in Roma's Stadio Olimpico, was made famous by Bruce Grobbelaar's "rubber legs" act on the goal-line during the penalty shoot-out but the night will also be remembered by many Liverpool fans who were ambushed in the Eternal City's back-alleys. Kenny Dalglish is among those who believe these were a factor in creating the mood that provoked the Heysel disaster the following year when Liverpool defended their title against another Italian team, Juventus.

Neither club was keen to recall 1984 yesterday, both understandably preferring to dwell on the game to come. Gérard Houllier, the Liverpool manager, said: "I know the match will stir memories of the past but what matters is what we can do now. Roma were the side we most wanted to avoid. Of the 16 teams left they are the best."

Roma, who lead Serie A by six points, are coached by Fabio Capello, who steered Milan to European Cup success. In the summer he strengthened an already strong side by signing Gabriel Batistuta for £22m to lead an attack orchestrated by Francesco Totti. The Argentine has settled well - he took his tally to 10 goals in 10 games against Udinese on Sunday.

Liverpool were unseeded due to their poor recent European record and Houllier added: "It is the most difficult draw we could possibly have had and it will be a massive task for us to overcome them."

Roma were equally complimentary. Their sporting director, Antonio Tempestilli, said: "Liverpool are one of the biggest clubs in Europe. It'll be a very, very difficult match." He added: "We now will have to have our revenge for 1984."

Although drawn at home, Liverpool will play the first leg away due to a fixture clash with Lazio's Champions' League game with Real Madrid, which takes priority. The two sides share the ground where Liverpool also won the 1977 European Cup defeating Borussia Mönchengladbach.

In 1984 Roma's home advantage back-fired as they became consumed by nerves, especially when they heard Liverpool walking down the tunnel beforehand singing Chris Rea's "Don't know what it is - but I love it". Sammy Lee, the songmaster back then, is still on the Liverpool staff and may be tempted to dig out a few old tapes.

The match went to penalties after Phil Neal's early goal had been equalised by Roberto Pruzzo. Steve Nicol missed the first but Bruno Conti soon missed and it was 3-2 to Liverpool when Francesco Graziani went to take his kick. Grobbelaar wobbled his knee. The Italian blasted over. Alan Kennedy converted the next kick to give Liverpool the cup. It was their seventh European honour. Few, at the time, thought they would still be seeking the eighth 17 years later.

The winner of the tie, to be played on 15 and 22 February, will face either Porto or Nantes in the quarter-finals in March. Neal, who also took a successful penalty, said yesterday: "It is amazing how history repeats itself. I am sure with the talent they've got at Liverpool they can get a good result."

The tie is the clear highlight of a draw which keeps the other leading sides - Barcelona, Internazionale and Parma - apart until the semi-finals, if they get there.

Barcelona have a tricky tie against Greek side AEK Athens, which could then lead to an all-Spanish contest with Celta Vigo. Two other Spanish clubs could also meet in the quarter-finals but first Alaves have to eliminate Internazionale, and the Madrid side Rayo Vallecano, who have the former Leicester player Kasey Keller in goal, must beat Bordeaux.

Parma, the 1999 winners, face PSV Eindhoven in the fourth round for the right to meet Slavia Prague or Rangers' conquerors, Kaiserslautern. Ten of the 16 teams come from the big four leagues (Spain, Italy, Germany, England) with Slavia Prague the only club from the former Eastern bloc.

Not that many of the teams will be looking as far ahead as February yet. Liverpool and Roma, in particular, have pressing weekend engagements. On Sunday the Reds play Manchester United while I Lupi (the wolves, after the tale of Romulus and Remus, Rome's legendary founders, being suckled by a she-wolf) meet Lazio in a match which could decide the fate of England's coach-elect, Sven Goran Eriksson.

UEFA CUP FOURTH-ROUND DRAW

1 Porto (Port) v Nantes (Fr) 2 AEK Athens (Gr) v Barcelona (Sp) 3 VfB Stuttgart (Ger) v Celta Vigo (Sp) 4 Roma (It) v Liverpool (Eng) 5 Alaves (Sp) v Internazionale (It) 6 PSV Eindhoven (Neth) v Parma (It) 7 Slavia Prague (Cz Rep) v Kaiserslautern (Ger) 8 Rayo Vallecano (Sp) v Girondins Bordeaux (Fr)

First leg: 15 February

Second leg: 22 February

Quarter-finals

Winner match 7 v Winner match 6 Winner match 2 v Winner match 3 Winner match 5 v Winner match 8 Winner match 1 v Winner match 4

First leg: 8 March

Second leg: 15 March

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