Real Madrid will look to maintain their unbeaten record in this season’s Champions League when they travel to Italy to face Roma in the first-leg of their last-16 tie on Wednesday night.
The Serie A side outfit advanced to this stage of the competition despite recording only one win from six in their group games, finishing above Bayer Leverkusen based on their superior head-to-head record.
Luciano Spalletti only started his second spell in charge last month but will be conscious that his men conceded 16 times in those half-a-dozen matches – only Malmo let in more – and will know that his side have to tighten up ahead of the arrival of a goal-hungry Real.
Six of those 16 goals came in a 6-1 defeat to Barcelona at the Camp Nou, while they drew 0-0 with BATE Borisov in their final group game in December.
Things haven’t gone too well in the league either, with the club lying fourth in the table, a position that has been gained following a run of four straight wins since Spalletti was re-appointed in January.
Real travel to the Italian capital in good form themselves, and fared much better than their opponents in the group stages, winning five and drawing one of their six games.
Zinedine Zidane’s side have also won seven of their last nine matches in La Liga, and will be full of confidence after netting 19 times in the previous round of Europe’s elite club competition.
With Gareth Bale absent, all eyes will once again be on Cristiano Ronaldo, who is the Champions League’s all-time top goalscorer with 88 goals, 11 of which have already come this term.
However, his team will also be wary that they were beaten 4-2 on aggregate by Roma when these two sides met at the same stage of the competition in 2008.
For the hosts, Daniele De Rossi is expected to be fit after sitting out the 3-1 win against Carpi on Friday, while Edin Dzeko will look to build upon his first goal in three months in the same encounter up front.
Gareth Bale misses the trip to the Stadio Olimpico because of a calf strain, but Marcelo could return to the starting line-up after missing the 4-2 win against Athletic Bilbao with a dislocated shoulder.
League Position: Roma (Serie A) – 4th, 47 pts; Real Madrid (La Liga) – 3rd, 53 pts
Previous Meeting: Real Madrid 1-2 Roma (March 5, 2008)
Form: Roma – DLWWWW; Real Madrid – WWDWWW
Key Men: Roma – Mohamed Salah ; Real Madrid – Cristiano Ronaldo
Shoot Says: Roma 1-1 Real Madrid