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Match Preview, Prediction and Head to Head
Zinedine Zidane makes his debut as a coach in the Champions League as he takes his Real Madrid team to the Italian capital to face Roma, in the first leg of their last 16 tie.
SPALLETTI STEADIES THE ROMA SHIP
Since returning to the club after six years, Luciano Spalletti has brought a new found stability to Roma as he prepares to face his biggest test to date. Four consecutive victories in Serie A, has brought the Giallorossi to within touching distance of the Champions League places for next season, but now all the focus turns to the last 16 of this season’s competition and the visit of Real Madrid. Spalletti can also boast a victory against Los Blancos in this very competition when his Roma side eliminated the Spanish giants at the same stage back in 2008; this Madrid side however, will be a much tougher nut to crack. Roma’s passage into the last 16 was far from easy and they scraped through the group stage with the lowest points total of any team (6) having only won one of their matches. Spalletti will be aware that his side must make home advantage count on Wednesday, his inspirational Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan agrees, adding that his side “Need a miracle” to qualify for the quarter-finals. The best football betting sites back up that statement, offering odds of *5.00 for the Italian’s to overcome the 10 times winners.
ZIDANE DESPERATE TO CHANGE RECENT HISTORY
Despite his side’s obvious superiority over their last 16 opponents, new Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane will be all too aware of their wretched recent record against Italian sides in European competition, having been eliminated in their last eight encounters with Serie A clubs. The man who scored that memorable goal in the 2002 final, makes his Champions League debut at the Stadio Olimpico as he attempts to bring the trophy back to the Santiago Bernabeu for an 11th time. Los Blancos were one of only two teams to progress from their qualification group undefeated, and they will be desperate to erase the memory of their heart-breaking semi-final defeat to Juventus last season and reach the final in Milan’s San Siro Stadium in May. Their domestic form under the guidance of the former French international has been impressive, with the 1998 World Cup winner unbeaten in his first six games at the helm.
Roma will have both their talisman available for the visit of Real Madrid with Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti both named in Spalletti’s squad for Wednesday. Greek defender Kostas Manolas and Egyptian striker Mohamed Salah, both limped off the field last week against Carpi but both have been passed fit to play on Wednesday. Having finally returned to scoring form last week, Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko is currently priced at *3.20 on the betting exchanges to be an anytime scorer.
Real Madrid are without Gareth Bale and Pepe for the trip to the Italian capital and Brazilian defender Marcelo, although he has travelled with the squad, remains highly doubtful. Defender Raphael Varane was sent-off in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Athletic Bilbao but is eligible to play in the Champions League.
Roma (from) Szczęsny, De Sanctis, Rudiger, Manolas, Digne, Castan, Maicon, Zukanovic, Nainggolan, Pjanic, De Rossi, Keita, Vainqueur, Florenzi, Uçan, Perotti, Salah, Dzeko, El Shaarawy, Falqué, Totti
Real Madrid (from) Navas, Casilla, Yanez, Craninx, Varane, Ramos, Nacho, Marcelo, Carvajal, Arbeloa, Danilo, Lienhart, Tejero, Kroos, Rodriguez, Casemiro, Kovačić, Vázquez, Modric, Isco, Ødegaard, Llorente, Lazo, Ronaldo, Benzema, Jese, Mayoral, Diaz
HEAD TO HEAD
The two sides have met on eight previous occasions in this competition, with the Spaniards just ahead by four wins to three. Real Madrid’s record against Italian sides in European competition reads **P65 W29 D11 L25. Los Blancos have failed to overcome teams from Serie A in their last eight encounters. Roma have faced Spanish opposition 24 times and their record reads **W9 D4 L11. The last time these two faced each other was at this stage in the competition back in 2008, Roma winning both legs 2-1.
Roma 4.50 Draw 3.90 Real Madrid 1.83
*odds courtesy of Bet365
**Key to symbols: P=played, W=won, D=drawn, L=lost