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The Galacticos travel to the city of the Gladiators as Real Madrid take on Roma in Wednesday’s Champions League – and the Italians hopes are boosted by injuries to two of Real’s star men.
Gareth Bale and Pepe both miss the much anticipated clash which sees Zinedine Zidane taking charge for his first CL game as a boss, while Luciano Spalletti leads Roma for the first time in the elite competition.
Zidane won everything as a player and now has his sights set on replicating that success as a coach having made a strong start to his managerial career since replacing Rafa Benitez in the Real hot seat.
Punters and online tipsters have been impressed and rewarded by the World Cup winner’s run to date which has seen Los Blancos drop only two points in the six La Liga games that Zidane has been in charge.
Zidane has very fond memories of the Champions League having scored a spectacular goal to win the trophy in 2002 for Real as well as tasting success from the dug-out as Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant when the club achieved La Decima in 2014.
TOTTI TO FEATURE
The coach will have to employ all of his experience to overcome the challenge of Roma in the last 16 first leg clash but is able to call on left back Marcelo.
The Brazil star is a surprise inclusion in the Real squad having made a remarkable comeback from a shoulder injury suffered in the 2-1 win over Granada on February and he is tipped to feature in the defence which is weakened through Pepe’s absence because of his foot injury.
Bale has been sidelined since picking up a calf injury against Sporting Gijon on January 17, the same injury that has ruled out Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi for Roma. However, unlike Real and Bale, Roma are expected to be able to call on their experienced duo for tomorrow’s match.
‘Difficult, but not impossible’
Roma midfielder Seydou Keita knows all about facing Real having played for Barcelona between 2008-2012 and described the task ahead as “difficult, but not impossible.”
The 36-year-old told Roma Radio: “When I was at Barcelona it was an important match, like the derby with Lazio. We have confidence in our own ability, and the preparation the coach [Luciano Spalletti] will give us for the match. He’ll study the best way to win a game that is difficult, but not impossible.”
Keita said Spalletti’s appointment in January following Rudi Garcia’s dismissal has reinvigorated Roma.
“The change of coach has changed the mentality,” he said. “When there’s a change it must be because things are bad, and so things have to change.
“The mental aspect and the trust has changed, and things are going well at the moment with four straight wins.
“The team is improving bit-by-bit, but we’re on the right path.
“This is a positive period for the club, the team and the fans. When a team is winning, that’s the most important thing in football.”
By: Joe Cahal