High-flying AS Roma travel to Madrid on Tuesday looking to over-turn the two-goal deficit against the revitalised Real Mardid, who have scored ten goals in their last two matches.
The 2-0 first-leg win over AS Roma in Italy was followed by two difficult results, which saw the atmosphere within the Los Blancos’ camp suffer a dramatic slump. The Malaga stalemate (1-1) was followed by the devastating 1-0 defeat in the Madrid Derby which effectively got Zidane’s boys out of the title race. What is more, defeat to Atletico has had a detrimental effect on the team’s morale and Cristiano Ronaldo in particular, who went on to criticise his teammates in public, claiming that Real Madrid would be first in the league if other players were at his level. The Portuguese star later apologized for his outburst and it seems that all is gone and forgotten as Los Blancos managed to notch back-to-back comprehensive wins as the perfect introduction to Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League match against AS Roma. Three goals at Levante and seven in a 7-1 win over Celta were more than impressive. Cristiano Ronaldo scored four this weekend thus reaching the 350 La Liga goals mark, becoming the fastest player in Europe to reach that milestone with a club as he needed 335 to do so. Zinedine Zidane will hope his team will maintain the positive form against AS Roma as Madrid-based club will only have Champions League to fight for in attempt to salvage their season.
Karim Benzema missed the last training and is likely to sit out through the game at Bernabeu, but Gareth Bale is back in the team and ready to feature.
ZIdane has included the 18-year-old Borja Mayoral as a replacement for the French striker, so Real’s BBC trio will be complete once again, just with a different name.
Giallorossi are faced with an impossible task at Santiago Bernabeu. Having surrendered two goals in the empathic first leg at home, AS Roma will now have a mountain to climb. However, Luciano Spalletti’s men find themselves in excellent form and are coming to Spain with a firm belief they can over-turn the deficit. Since their defeat to Los Blancos, AS Roma have gone on a three-match winning streak in the Serie A, which saw them reach the third place in the standings. The Romans have picked up their form drastically and have now won seven straight Serie A games and the 2-0 defeat to Real Madrid have been their only home loss since January. Spalletti’s charges have registered a 4-1 win over Fiorentina in the last round thanks to goals from El Shaarawy, Perotti and Salah’s brace. Stephan El Shaarawy has been a huge hit with the Romans so far, as the Monaco loanee scored five goals in six appearances since his January arrival. Giallorossi travel to Madrid with restored optimism and self-belief. Miralem Pjanic has issued a warning to Los Blancos, claiming that “real Roma” are coming to Spain, physically and mentally fit for the greatest challenge.
Daniele De Rossi is suffering from an injury and will not be taking part in the rematch at Santiago Bernabeu.
Radja Nainggolan and Antonio Rudiger have trained out of the group over the weekend and will be submitted to late fitness checks ahead of the match.
Key Factors to Consider
- Real Madrid have lost 1 and won 9 of their last 10 home matches
- Los Blancos have scored ten goals in their last two games
- AS Roma have lost just one of their last 8 matches in all competitions
- Cristiano Ronaldo has hit the 350-goal mark for Real Madrid at the weekend
- Stephan El Shaarawy has scored 5 goals in six games for AS Roma
Real Madrid hold a huge advantage coming into the return leg, but AS Roma re determined to go out and get back in the tie, so we should expect an openly-contested affair with goals at both ends of the pitch.
Verdict: Both teams to score – yes