Luciano Spalletti is faced with a toughest challenge yet as AS Roma manager as his troops are preparing to welcome Real Madrid, led by Champions League winner Zinedine Zidane, who is making his managerial bow in the competition.
The new Roma
Giallorossi look a new team in the last couple of weeks. Struggling to find pace under Rudi Garcia, AS Roma have been revamped by Luciano Spalletti, who made an instant impact to the team’s play. The 1-0 defeat at the hands of Serie A champions Juventus was followed by four-match winning streak as AS Roma dispatched Frosinone, Sassuolo, Sampdoria and Carpi last time out to close the gap on the third-placed Fiorentina, who are just two points in front in the Champions League seat. Spalletti now turns his attention to the Champions League where his team have been made underdogs in their last 16 matchup against Real Madrid. Spalletti will not be carrying a white flag as his team has regained confidence and will welcome Los Blancos feeling motivated and prepared to try and record a positive result. The arrival of Stephan El Shaarawy proved to be a great thing for the Roma-based club, as the Italian striker has also been making great influence, helping Edin Dzeko upfront. El Shaarawy has made four Serie A appearances and has already found the back of the net twice.
Kevin Strootman has returned to training, but remains sidelined with his long-term injury. Daniele De Rossi, Francesco Totti and Gyomber will join him in the recovery room for the upcoming event.
Zidane’s Champions League return
The French legend has some very fond memories of the UEFA Champions League as a player and will now look to repeat the success as the manager. The world never forgot Zidane’s spectacular winning goal for Real Madrid in 2002 against Bayer Leverkusen as Real Madrid won the competition, while Zidane also played a hand in the club’s historic 10th Champions League trophy as Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant. Having made a dream start to his Real Madrid new career, Zinedine Zidane will now be looking to extend his positive stretch, as he won five of 6 games in charge since his appointment. The French legend only dropped two points against Betis way, but other than that his team have been producing fantastic displays. Los Blancos have scored 23 goals in their six games under Zidane, and it is fair to say it had plenty to do with new coach’s tactical approach and attack-oriented philosophy. Zidane has sorted out discipline problems and squad issues that occurred under former manager Rafa Benitez and James Rodriguez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema are once again enjoying their football at Real Madrid. Despite his inexperience as a manager, Zidane has managed to assert his leadership and players follow his lead to success.
Real Madrid travel to Italy without Gareth Bale, who is still having problems with his injury. Danilo is coming back into the fold, while Marcelo is likely to start from the bench as he is fresh from his injury. Pepe is also unavailable for the visitors.
Both sides have rediscovered their forms and regained self-confidence under new managers and we are in for a highly entertaining Champions League clash. The game could end either way, but goals should be a sure bet.
Top pick: Both teams to score – yes 1.62 (8/13) @Ladbrokes
Alternative pick 1: Over 2.5 goals 1.65 (13/12) @Sportingbet
Alternative pick 2: Real Madrid 1.83 (5/6) @BetVictor