Security ramped up in Rome with armed police and army on patrol ahead of Liverpool's Champions League semi-final
A heavy police presence are on duty in Rome on Wednesday, with security forces in the city ramped up ahead of the Champions League semi-final second leg meeting between Liverpool and Roma at the Stadio Olimpico. Around 1,200 police will be on duty, alongside the army, Carabinieri and police offers from Merseyside, who have travelled to assist their Italian counterparts. The second leg is being played amid security concerns in the Italian capital following the attack on Liverpool supporter Sean Cox.
The 53-year-old remains in intensive care after being attacked outside Anfield ahead of the first leg. Roma players wore T-shirts with the slogan "Forza Sean" at training on Tuesday. Following the incidents of a week ago, there has been an increased police presence at major landmarks across the city.The army are on patrol in the centre of RomeArmy on patrol in Rome city centreThe scenes outside Anfield marred the first leg (Image: Internet Unknown)
Over 5,000 supporters are expected to be in Rome for the encounter, as the Reds look to book a Champions League final place against Real Madrid.
Jurgen Klopp's men take on the Serie A side boasting a 5-2 advantage after the first leg; Mo Salah scored twice against his former club, with Roberto Firmino (twice) and Sadio Mane also netting. Those that made the journey on Tuesday were largely in good spirits on the evening, drinking in bars with locals. Those who arrived on Wednesday morning - leaving Liverpool John Lennon Airport in the early hours, ahead of the semi-final which will kick off at 8:45pm local time - were greeted by a heavy police presence upon touching down at Fiumicino airport.
They have also found a booze ban in effect, with all alcohol banned from being sold in the city for 24 hours, or served at any of the city's outdoor cafes and bars; the mayor's office has called it a necessary precaution.Police greet Liverpool fans at Fiumicino airport (Image: REX/Shutterstock)Police from England have also arrived in the Italian capital to help their counterparts (Image: REX/Shutterstock)Liverpool's supporters arrrive at Fiumicino airport (Image: REX/Shutterstock)
However, one Liverpool fan has declared that he was attacked with a metal bar while walking back to his hotel on Tuesday. Carlo Johnson with his friend Peter Saunders, 29, at around 10.30 last night after leaving The Drunken Ship Pub, as originally reported by the Liverpool Echo. So far it appears to be an isolated incident, and fans in Rome have reported a 'great' atmosphere with no violence so far.Liverpool fans outside a bar in Campo de' Fiori on Tuesday night (Image: PA)
What is the Carabinieri?
The Carabinieri is Italy's second police force, a part of its army. The force celebrated its 200th birthday in 2014 and is actually older than the country itself. It was founded by Victor Emanuel I, Duke of Savoy and King of Sardinia almost half a century before modern Italy came into existence.
Their name comes from the carabina, the rifle they traditionally carried. When Italy was unified, the carabinieri remained a nationwide military presence performing law enforcement duties, effectively making it a second police force. Neither Peter or Carl were wearing anything which could identify them as Liverpool supporters and at this point it is not clear whether the attack was football related.
Carl told the Liverpool Echo: "We came out of the pub at around 10.30. Not many Liverpool fans were out so the two of us were on the way back to the hotel. "We got a few hundred yards from the hotel which is on Violo Del Gallo and two scooters came out of nowhere.
The two passengers on the back got off and attacked us, one had a small metal bar. "We tried to fight back but the drivers got off. We ran off."Liverpool fans have been in good spirits (Image: PA)Police watch Liverpool fans in a bar in Campo de' Fiori (Image: PA)
Carl received only minor bruising from the incident, however he hopes to warn other fans to stay safe and in large groups.
He added: "We were wearing no LFC colours or clothing. We both had jeans and dark coloured jackets. "I would just like to warn people to stay in numbers.
It seems like the only way these cowards don't attack."Fans at the Colosseum (Image: PA)More fans enjoying the sights in the city (Image: PA)
Liverpool have once more offered further security advice on Wednesday, urging those in attendance not to walk to the stadium. "Supporters are strongly advised to use the available shuttle buses to the stadium which will run from Piazzale delle Canestre, Villa Borghese, starting from 4pm. Under no circumstances should supporters attempt to walk to the Stadio Olimpico..
"Liverpool officials are involved in ongoing discussions with the Italian authorities aimed at ensuring fans enjoy the best possible experience with safety and security at the top of the club's agenda as always." All supporters must be carrying a personal ID alongside their match ticket, and the names must match; in situations where this is not the case, entry is set to be refused. Fans have been also recommended to stay away from areas where 'ambushes and severe beatings' have occurred in the past.
These include, Duca d'Aosta (Duke of Aosta) bridge, which crosses the Tiber towards Roma's ground, and key squares in the city centre.Liverpool fans leave for Rome (Image: LIVERPOOL ECHO)
Supporters have been warned that drinking alcohol on the streets of Rome will be prohibited and not to hang banners or scarves on monuments of national importance such as foundations and statues. "We are used to managing these events," says Public order commissioner Giorgio Luciani. "For the Rome Marathon we organised a police service of more than 1,000 people. For the derby between Roma and Lazio it was the same.
"We can guarantee the safety of Liverpool supporters if they respect the rules and make the day as normal as they can. We don't ask for anything special, just that they respect the rules."Liverpool fans at Liverpool John Lennon Airport (Image: LIVERPOOL ECHO)
Furthermore, away supporters face a long wait inside the Stadio Olimpico after the match. Italian police are desperate to avoid trouble on the day of the game and could keep fans inside the Stadio Olimpico for over two hours after the final whistle
"If all goes well, we will let the Liverpool fans out earlier, but it could happen," Giampietro Lionetti, the head of the Rome police special branch said. Barcelona supporters were prevented from leaving the stadium until around 1am local time following their quarter-final defeat last month. Former Roma star Francesco Totti has urged the club's fans to stay calm.
"The world is watching," he said. "We are Rome's ambassadors and we carry a great responsibility both inside and outside Stadio Olimpico."Liverpool boss Klopp called for calm on Tuesday (Image: AFP/Getty)
At his press conference on Tuesday night, Liverpool boss Klopp called for calm in the stands and on the streets. "We all have the same opinion and it is a football game. The fight around a football game is only on the pitch and the rules are the football rules.
And everybody who doesn't accept these rules will be sent off," he said. "That is clear. It was always like that.
"I really hope after one week of speaking about it - and it was good to speak about it - Sean and his family should hear and feel our support.
"I really hope everyone understood that tomorrow around the game in this wonderful city in good weather all the people can walk to the stadium and look forward to a fantastic, intense, very important football game and I really hope that will be possible."poll loading