Football: Real seek Champions League glory after poor season

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (left) in a jolly mood after scoring the third of four goals against Celta Vigo in the 7-1 La Liga win on Saturday. His team will be looking to defeat Roma today to book their place in the Champions League quarter-fina
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (left) in a jolly mood after scoring the third of four goals against Celta Vigo in the 7-1 La Liga win on Saturday. His team will be looking to defeat Roma today to book their place in the Champions League quarter-finals for a sixth consecutive season.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

MADRID • Real Madrid return to Champions League action with the visit of Roma today, needing to book their place in the quarter-finals to keep alive a hugely disappointing season.

A place in the last eight for a sixth consecutive season is well within the reach of Zinedine Zidane's men as they have a comfortable 2-0 first-leg lead to rely on.

Yet, the Spanish football giants will have memories of this stage of the competition 12 months ago when Schalke, who lost the first leg 0-2, had the 10-time champions clinging on frantically in the final stages as the German side won 4-3 at the Bernabeu.

Real's home form this season has shown in equal measure the talent and frailties prevalent in their star-studded squad.

Their forlorn challenge for the Spanish title owes much to defeats by rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the Bernabeu.

  • 7

  • Number of European Cups won by Real Madrid when they were not domestic league champions.

Yet, they have won 15 and drawn one of their 16 home games, while piling up 69 goals in the process.

Trailing Barca by 12 points with only 10 league games to play and having been turfed out of the King's Cup after just one game for fielding an ineligible player, Real's sole focus has turned to winning an 11th European Cup.

And not without reason. On the last seven times Real were crowned kings of Europe, they failed to win the league domestically.

"We are still in the Champions League. It is a competition we aspire to win and it is not a coincidence that we are the team with the most European Cups," said their star, Cristiano Ronaldo.

"Nothing is lost and we are going to continue working to achieve great things at the end of the season."

Gareth Bale looks set to reinforce them after a promising return from a calf injury at the weekend.

Real should also have Toni Kroos (illness), Luka Modric (ankle injury) and Marcelo (muscle fatigue) back after they missed Saturday's 7-1 rout of Celta Vigo when Ronaldo scored four goals.

Bale, who has scored an average of nearly a goal a match in La Liga this season, should help Real keep the Roma defence busy as the Italian side try to come back from a 2-0 deficit in the first leg in Rome two weeks ago.

However, striker Karim Benzema remains doubtful with a thigh muscle problem and teenager Borja Mayoral could again stand in for him.

Roma also boosted their confidence for the task in Madrid with a 4-1 home win over Fiorentina in a key clash for third place in Serie A on Friday, including two goals from winger Mohamed Salah.

But coach Luciano Spalletti has injury worries.

He did not include central defender Antonio Rudiger in a 21-man squad for the trip.

Holding midfielder Radja Nainggolan is also doubtful with a groin problem and Daniele de Rossi is still unavailable. REUTERS,

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

REAL MADRID V ROMA

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2016, with the headline 'Real seek Champions League glory after poor season'. Print Edition | Subscribe