Wednesday, 17 February 2016

AS Roma v Real Madrid - Preview

Roma manager Luciano Spalletti is not planning to "cage" Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League last-16.

Despite conceding 16 goals in the group stage, Spalletti will not sacrifice players to mark Ronaldo out of Wednesday's game.

The Portuguese forward is the Champions League's all-time record scorer with 88 goals and has 11 already this season.

"I'm not going to order three players to mark him," said Spalletti.

Speaking ahead of the first leg at the Stadio Olimpico, Spalletti added: "I don't want to say that my players have one third of Ronaldo's quality. If so, we'd need 33 players to deal with him."

Roma won just one match in the group stage and were beaten 6-1 by Barcelona.

In contrast Real Madrid won five out of six games, scoring 19 goals in the process.

But Spalletti believes his side can still cause an upset against the 10-time European champions.

The Italian took over at the Stadio Olimpico on 14 January for his second spell in charge and has seen a revival with Roma winning four out of their last five league games.

"I don't think there's a favourite," he said. "We've got a 50% chance of going through.

"I'm very optimistic, as I've seen my players improving all the time. I wouldn't be amazed if it was my team who went through."

Real Madrid will be without Gareth Bale for the game, with the Wales forward sidelined by a calf strain.

But left-back Marcelo returns to the match day squad, after missing Real's 4-2 win over Athletic Bilbao at the weekend due to a dislocated shoulder.

Fact file
• The clubs have met eight times in UEFA competition with four wins for Madrid, three for Roma and one draw.

• The clubs met most recently in a pre-season friendly in Melbourne on 18 July last year, Benítez's first game as Madrid coach. Roma prevailed 7-6 on penalties after a 0-0 draw, Seydou Keita converting the winning kick after Morgan De Sanctis had saved from Lucas Vázquez.

• Their most recent official encounter was in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 in 2007/08 when Spalletti's Roma recorded 2-1 home and away victories.

• Then as now, the first leg was at the Stadio Olimpico and though Raúl González struck first, Roma hit back through David Pizarro and Mancini to end a run of three home defeats against the Spanish side.

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