Ask The Opposition: Roma

Ask The Opposition: Roma


Real Madrid turn to Champions League action tonight when they face Roma in the last-16 of the competition.

Los Blancos breezed through their group and were the joint highest scorers over the first six games. The come into this match tonight on the back of five wins and a draw in the six games since Zinedine Zidane took charge and should be confident of getting a positive result to take back to the Santiago Bernabeu in three weeks time.

However, the 10-time winners of the competition were knocked out by Italian opposition last year and will want to avoid a repeat this time round.

Roma have had some heavy defeats in Europe in recent seasons – most recently the mauling at the Camp Nou earlier this season. But with a new manager in charge and the team in good form, it could be a tricky test for Real.

We spoke to Italian football expert Paolo Selvatico about Roma and what we can expect this evening. Here’s what he had to say:

1 – So Paolo, give us a brief overview of Roma’s season so far and what kind of form are they in coming into this game?

Thanks Paul for giving me the opportunity to comment such interesting match.
Roma’s season so far has been contradictory and full of ups and downs. They started very well and after 10 matches were leading  Serie A with 23 points but then in November and December they had several negative performances and results that saw them fall away. They were also knocked out in Italian cup by Spezia – a Serie B team.

After the change of trainer, when Spalletti replaced Garcia, things are getting better. They have won the last four matches and currently they are 4th, 10 points behind league leaders Juventus. They are also coming into this game with a good level of form.

2- Is there any significant team news ahead of the game – any major injuries or players missing?

No major injuries but there are still some doubts on the starting team. De Rossi has recovered from injury and he trained with the rest yesterday but I’m not sure if he’ll play from the start. It’s more likely that he will start from the bench and Keita will play in midfielder together with Pjanic and Nainggolan. Also for the right back position there are two players competing Florenzi and Maicon. It’s a similar story for the left forward role too with Spalletti set to pick one of Perotti or El Shaarawy.
3 – They were thrashed in at the Nou Camp earlier this season against Barcelona. How much will that result play on their minds coming up against Spanish opposition again?
Unfortunately, in the last few years, Roma has not got a positive track record against top European teams. Not only they were thrashed this season against Barcelona but also last season against Bayern (1-7 at home) and few seasons ago against Manchester United (7-1). However, each match is different and players will be fully focused on this match so I don’t think the defeat will play much on their minds, at least at the beginning.
4 – Who are the dangermen in the Roma side that Real need to look out for? 

I believe Dzeko. Real’s central defenders are strong but not always very confident if they face the right level of pressure. Thus Dzeko could be very important in that regard. Of course he will need to be well supported from Salah, Nainggolan and others.

5 – Can we expect a fairly cagey affair with a focus on not conceding the away goal or will Roma want to take a lead to the Santiago Bernabeu to try to defend?

Roma need to take a lead if they want to have a chance to progress to the quarter final. If you play only focusing on not conceding the away goal to Real, you will probably lose because Real has players that can score in any situations.

6 – Madrid are unbeaten under Zinedine Zidane and have scored 23 goals in their past 6 games. They’re unbeaten in the Champions League this season and are the joint highest scorers. Do Roma have a chance?

Nainggolan stated that “we need a miracle to win” and I agree. Real is much stronger and for sure the favourites but Roma will have chances if they play both matches at the maximum of their potential and maybe if Real underestimates them a bit.

7 – Which Madrid players do you most fear ahead of the game?

For sure Ronaldo, even if Spalletti just mentioned that they won’t prepare any special treatment for him. But Real has several other good players (personally I really like Isco) so for sure there is not only one player to watch out.

8 – What’s your prediction for the match?

Too difficult to predict. I just wish it will be a good game to watch with several chances and the team who plays better will win. Of course, as an Italian I hope that the result will be the same as it was during season 2007-2008 last-16 of Champions League when Roma defeated Real winning 2-1 both at Olimpico and Bernabeu. They were totally different teams but Luciano Spalletti was Roma’s coach also that time, so he probably knows how to play effectively against Real.