By 90Min
September 18, 2018

The Champions League is back, and with that, Real Madrid are set begin their defence of a trophy they have won a record breaking three consecutive time, as they kick off Group G against last season's semi-finalist Roma.


Madrid, now without Cristiano Ronaldo, will look to Gareth Bale to take over the mantle of Los Blancos' superstar; whereas Roma will be hoping Edin Dzeko and new boy Justin Kluivert can inspire them to famous victory. 

The clubs faced one another in a pre-season friendly held in America, where Real Madrid ran out 2-1 winners. Yet, the two clubs have not met competitively since the 2015/16 Champions League round of 16; a tie which Real Madrid ran out 4-0 winners. In fact, the last time Roma triumphed in this clash was over 10 years ago, as they beat Madrid 4-2 on aggregate back in the 2007/08 season.


Classic Encounter


Almost 14 years to the day, this classic encounter took place. 24th September 2004, The Champions League once again the willing host, as the Santiago Bernabéu bore witness to Los Galacticos and a Francesco Totti led AS Roma.

JAVIER SORIANO/GettyImages

Roma's Daniele De Rossi will be hoping history repeats itself on Wednesday night, as he was the man who opened the scoring for I Giallorossi on the third minute, before Antonio Cassano doubled the lead in the 21st minute. However, Roma fell short as a Luis Figo masterclass gave Real a 4-2 advantage heading into the second leg.


Key Battles

Gareth Bale vs. Aleksander Kolarov

Gareth Bale has had his troubles since joining Los Blancos. Due a number of niggling injuries, the ex-Spurs man has had trouble getting a consistent run of games in order to really impress in recent seasons. 

As if a frustrating injury history wasn't enough, Bale has always had to play second fiddle to Ronaldo and became a bit part player for the majority of last season. However, with Los Blancos now guided under new management and Ronaldo leaving for Juve, Bale can finally have his say. 

Scoring three and assisting a further two in only four La Liga appearances this season, Bale has been in blistering form recently. It will be Aleksander Kolarov who will be tasked with stopping the flying Welshman on Wednesday night. 

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Kolarov has played every minute of the club's four Serie A matches this season. A powerful yet versatile full back Kolarov is nearing the end of his professional career but could still prove more than a match for Bale on his day. 

Not only tactically equipped defensively, he is capable of hurting teams on the front foot too, and it will be no surprise to see Kolarov taking the game to the Real Madrid back line in order to create a goal-scoring opportunity.


Team News


Real Madrid: Julen Lopetegui's Real Madrid have no fresh injury concerns ahead of this tie. After opting to substitute both Bale and Luka Modric whilst chasing the game against Athletic Bilbao to maximise recovery, it appears it is just selection headaches for Lopetegui. Isco or Marco Asensio? Casemiro or Dani Ceballos? Thibaut Courtois or Keyor Navas? One position that seems assured is the number nine role, as Karim Benzema has started the season in fine form - scoring five goal in five games. 

AS Roma: Eusebio di Francesco appears to have a full strength side to take to the Bernabéu, and it is likely he will opt for a similar line-up to the team that faced Chievo.


Predicted Lineups


Real Madrid (4-1-2-3) Courtois; Marcelo, Ramos, Varane, Carvajal; Casemiro; Modric, Kroos; Asensio, Benzema, Bale


Roma (4-3-3) Olsen; Florenzi, Manolas, Juan Jesus, Kolarov; Pellegrini, N'Zonzi, Cristante; Under, Dzeko, El Shaarawy


Prediction

Surprisingly, this will be the 11th encounter between these two sides since 2001, with Real Madrid taking the spoils on six occasions, losing only once. This coupled with Real Madrid's formidable Champions League form, it would be no surprise to see them make it seven wins from 11, and start Group G convincingly. 

Roma, on the other hand, will go into this match knowing that they have the ability to cause an upset but will need to tighten up a defence that conceded a 2-0 lead to Chievo at the weekend.

Predicted Scoreline: Real Madrid 3-1 Roma

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