With their eyes firmly set on the midweek Champions League action, both Real Madrid and AS Roma will be determined to put their respective domestic draws behind them as Europe’s elite competition returns to the spotlight. Real Madrid vs Roma could be a cracker.
The reigning European champions kick off their title defence and start pursuit of their fourth consecutive Champions League title through the beginning of a new era at Santiago Bernabeu. All of their previous four European crowns were in large amounts won thanks to the formidable goal scoring exploits of the man who is now residing in Turin (and will be hoping to spread his ketchup in Valencia).
Julen Lopetegui’s men face a demanding stretch of six games in just 18 days beginning with a face-off with AS Roma. The new Real Madrid boss started his tenure in the Spanish capital with a UEFA Super Cup defeat at the hands of Atletico Madrid but did well to inspire his team to three consecutive wins in the league up to the international break.
A frustrating 1-1 stalemate at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday came as a warning sign, however, and a reminder that Los Blancos have a lot of work to do this season to compensate for the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Out of the Shadows
Two Real Madrid players are standing out from the crowd early in the 2018/19 season – Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.
The French striker has managed four La Liga goals thus far and is leading the top scorers list together with Barcelona’s wizard Leo Messi. Gareth Bale is one goal behind the duo and it would appear that Benzema and Bale have benefited the most from Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure.
With 2,136 and 1,832 points accumulated across 13 Champions League matches for their contribution in attack, Benzema and Bale were slotted in at 13th and 14th place respectively in Twelve’s rankings when it came to Real Madrid’s players last year.
Shooting and goal scoring were two segments of the game strictly reserved for Cristiano Ronaldo. He topped the chart with a whopping 20,985 points according to Twelve’s sophisticated calculus.
Having been given the opportunity to step out of the Portuguese superstar’s shadow, both Benzema and Bale are now doing their job without any restraints and will be expected to lead the line against the Italians on Wednesday.
Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
The early signs would suggest that Monchi’s Model is not working. It would be foolish to draw any kind of conclusions this early in the campaign but AS Roma are not producing the expected results despite reinforcing their squad significantly during the summer transfer window.
The semi-finalists of the 2017/18 edition of Europe’s elite competition have only won one of their four matches in the new campaign and are coming off from a disappointing 2-2 draw. Giallorossi let a two-goal advantage slip through their fingers and will be heading to Madrid in low spirits.
Two defeats in two away matches this term serve as a warning sign for Eusebio Di Franchesco’s charges who will be hoping their best player from last season – Edin Dzeko – will find the Champions League inspirational enough to restore his goal scoring form.
The driving force of the Roman chariot, the Bosnian striker enjoyed a formidable season in Europe in 2017/18. No fewer than 18,724 points next to his name and a top spot above all AS Roma players in Twelve’s rankings should be more than enough to illustrate Dzeko’s true value in AS Roma’s semi-final charge.
Can he kick-start the season at Santiago Bernabeu, or will the opposing gladiators of Madrid take centre-stage in a match that marks the beginning of a new European era for the champions? It will be fascinating to find out.