A Liverpool fan is fighting for his life in hospital after violence erupted ahead of the club’s Champions League clash with Roma at Anfield.
Two men have been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after the horrific scenes broke out ahead of the semi-final match on Tuesday night.
The victim, 53, believed to be from Ireland and with his brother, was rushed to hospital where he remained in a critical condition, Merseyside Police said.
The 25-year-old and 26-year-old suspects, from Rome, were arrested after police launched an operation to track down the man's assailants amid the violent disorder.
It comes after reports on social media claimed a group of about 20 Roma supporters attacked a Liverpool fan with belts during the build-up to the tie.
One image appeared to show a man lying on the ground surrounded by police officers.
Liverpool Football Club said it was "shocked and appalled" by the incident and urged fans and those who attended the game to help Merseyside Police with their appeal for information.
Detective Inspector Paul Speight, said: "We believe the victim was in Liverpool with his brother for the Liverpool v Roma semi-final and was assaulted during an altercation between Roma and Liverpool fans near to the Albert pub at about 7.35pm.
"Witnesses report that the victim was hit with a belt and then fell to the ground.
"Paramedics treated him at the scene and he was taken by ambulance to Walton Neurological Centre, where he is being treated for a head injury. His condition is currently described as critical and his next of kin have been informed."
The Liverpool fan's alleged assailants were among a total of nine men, aged between 20 and 43, who were arrested for various offences before and after the match.
The offences included affray, assault, possession of offensive weapons, possession of a controlled drug, criminal damage and being drunk and disorderly.
Detectives are also investigating the use of flares outside the ground, the force said.
Merseyside Police Chief Superintendent Dave Charnock, said "a number of those in the crowd that had gathered to greet the Liverpool team coach were in possession of flares and work is ongoing to identify those responsible".
He added: "The vast majority of the 52,500 fans attending the game were well behaved and went to watch a good game of football.
Police and ambulance in attendance at the Albert pub next to Anfield.— talkSPORT 📻 (@talkSPORT) April 24, 2018
Reports of clashes between Liverpool and Roma fans before kick-off. pic.twitter.com/E1QZHDtzGy
"However, a minority of fans from both Liverpool and Roma were involved in isolated pockets of disorder in the city centre and near to the ground."
Anyone with information or mobile phone footage of the disorder was urged to contact police.
Two men arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after 53-year-old man assaulted before the Champions League semi-final. https://t.co/v6yIV4VohC— Merseyside Police (@MerseyPolice) April 24, 2018
Mr Charnock said: "We will be reviewing CCTV footage, our own body worn camera footage and working with the club to identify those involved in any of these incidents so we can put them before the courts.
"And I would appeal to anyone who has any information, or mobile phone footage, in relation to any of these incidents to contact us.
"Finally, I would like to thank the Liverpool Football Club stewards and the police officers who were out on the ground tonight for their hard work and professionalism throughout the evening."
In a statement, Liverpool FC said: "[We are] shocked and appalled after a Liverpool supporter was left in a critical condition having been attacked prior to the Champions League fixture against AS Roma.
"Our thoughts, in the first instance, are with the victim and his family at this very traumatic time. We will be offering them our full support.
"The club has been liaising with the emergency services since the incident occurred and will continue to do so.
"Liverpool FC directs supporters and those in attendance at the game to Merseyside Police's appeal for information."