When they square off with defending Champions League winners Real Madrid on Wednesday, Roma will no longer have to deal with arguably the world’s best player. However, Real still have plenty of firepower despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s summer move to Juventus. If Roma are to manage a surprise result at the Bernabéu, they’ll need to produce a fine team performance, as well as, win some key head-to-head match-ups around the field. Below we preview some match-ups that could be key.
Daniele De Rossi & Steven N’Zonzi v. Luka Modric
Real Madrid may have lost the defending Ballon d’Or winner, Ronaldo. However, they do still have Modric, who won player of the tournament at this summer’s World Cup. Modric holds the keys to the Madrid midfield and will attempt to dictate play when his team is in possession. In a game where Roma are likely to lose the possession battle, EdF will need Daniele De Rossi and Steven N’Zonzi to make Modric uncomfortable. If Modric is allowed too much time on the ball, he will pick Roma apart with his killer passing ability.
Aleksander Kolarov v. Gareth Bale
Bale has already started to pick up some of the scoring void left by the subtraction of Ronaldo. The Welshman has already scored three goals and provided two assists in Real’s first four La Liga matches and he’ll look to keep up his torrid start on Wednesday. Bale likes to start wide right and cut in toward the goal to do his damage. That means a lot of the responsibility in attempting to contain him will fall on Roma’s left back, Aleksander Kolarov. Kolarov was a revelation for Roma last season. However, the Serb has gotten off to a shaky start this season. Roma will need a 2017-18-like Kolarov performance if they hope to keep Bale off the score sheet on Wednesday.
Alessandro Florenzi v. Marcelo
We’ve all seen how effective Alessandro Florenzi can be when he’s allowed to get forward; as witnessed by his goal against Atalanta and assist against Chievo. However, as a converted attacking player, Florenzi can have slip-ups in the defensive phase of the game. On Wednesday, he’ll be matched up against another player who likes to get forward from the back in the form of Madrid left-back, Marcelo. It’ll be vital that Florenzi choses the right times to get forward when Roma are in possession and ensure that he doesn’t get caught out of possession. If Florenzi chooses his spots poorly, Marcelo could torch Roma down the wing on the counter. Who gets forward and who defends better, in this match-up, could go a long way in determining the outcome of the match.
Edin Dzeko v. Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane
There’s no question that the key man in Roma’s attack is Edin Dzeko. The big Bosnian has scored in his last five Champions League appearances and he’ll likely be needed to get things going for Roma’s attack. As stated earlier, Roma will likely cede a great share of possession to Real in this match-up, which means Dzeko will be key when Roma do counter. Dzeko is strong in the air and he’ll have to win plenty of balls against Madrid’s center backs when Roma get the ball forward to him. If Dzeko can hold the ball up against Madrid’s duo, he could spring Under and El Shaarawy on the break. Dzeko keeping up his Champions League goal scoring form would go a long way in a potential positive result for Roma, as well.