Roma v Real Madrid preview: Zinedine Zidane to make Champions League managerial debut
By Sam Drury
Last Updated: 17/02/16 8:08pm
Zinedine Zidane will make his Champions League debut as a manager when Real Madrid take on Roma in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Wednesday.
The game will also be the first in Europe's premier club competition for his opposite number Luciano Spalletti since he returned as Roma boss last month, replacing Rudi Garcia.
While Los Blancos coasted through the group stage, with a record of five wins and a draw under previous boss Rafa Benitez, their Italian opponents scraped through with just a single win, three draws and a goal difference of -5.
Cristiano Ronaldo was in fine form for Real in the group phase, scoring 11 goals, and Zidane is backing him to continue in the same vain in the knockout rounds.
"Cristiano is very important on the wing because when he attacks one-on-one he's very good... he's very hard to defend against," he said ahead of the game at the Stadio Olimpico. "That's how we scored the first goal [against Athletic Bilbao]."
However, Roma are on a run of four straight wins and Spalletti has previous against Real Madrid in the Champions League. In 2008 he guided Roma to a 4-2 aggregate win over Bernd Schuster's Real.
Roma could welcome back experienced duo Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi, both of whom have been struggling with calf problems.
Marcelo has recovered from the shoulder injury that ruled him out of Real's win over Athletic Bilbao at the weekend and is in contention to start.
However, the Spanish giants are still without Pepe (foot) and Gareth Bale (calf).
This is the 19th consecutive season in which Real Madrid - who finished top of Group A ahead of Paris Saint-Germain - have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League, the longest run in the history of the competition. They've reached the semi-finals in each of the last five seasons.
Roma have made it to the knockout stages for the first time since 2010/11. They were eliminated by Shakhtar Donetsk in the last 16 five years ago.
Roma finished second in Group E behind Barcelona to reach the knockout stages despite picking up only six points and conceding 16 goals (both records for teams that reached the latter stages, the first one being a joint record with Zenit's 2013/14 team).
Real Madrid have won three of their four away games against Roma in the Champions League (L1). They've also never failed to score in their away games versus the Italian side.
Eight different players scored for Roma in this season's group stages, more than any other team.
Cristiano Ronaldo - 73 goals in 69 Champions League games with Real Madrid - scored his first ever goal in the competition against Roma, it was in April 2007 with Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Real Madrid are Sky Bet's 5/6 favourites to establish a first-leg lead, with Roma 3/1 to take an advantage to the Bernabeu while a draw is priced at 14/5. The Italian outfit are also outsiders to qualify at 100/30 while they are a considerably longer price in the outright at 100/1 to 11/2 on Zinedine Zidane's men.
Cristiano Ronaldo heads the first goalscorer betting at 3/1 while Edin Dzeko is rated the hosts' main threat at 13/2, with the prolific duo 5/1 to both find the net. Jamie Redknapp has provided Sky Bet with his prediction, backing Ronaldo to score first in a 3-1 away win at 18/1.