Football: Roma on revenge mission against wounded Real Madrid

Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro is out of today's Champions League clash with Roma due to an injury.
Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro is out of today's Champions League clash with Roma due to an injury.

MADRID • It is two months since Real Madrid's 3-0 victory over Roma to open their Champions League title defence but so much has changed at the Santiago Bernabeu since then.

The instability does not bode well for the European champions' trip to Rome that could decide first position in Group G with both teams on nine points.

That convincing win in September was a rare bright spot in a season that has lurched from one low to another following Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo's departure to Italian champions Juventus.

The chaos seemed to have subsided when Julen Lopetegui was sacked on Oct 29 after a 5-1 loss at Barcelona to end his 139-day stint, with Santiago Solari presiding over the best start of any Real manager with four consecutive wins.

But, in the Argentinian's first game after being rewarded with the full-time job until 2021, they were humiliated 3-0 at Eibar last Saturday. It appears that the change in coach simply papered over the cracks, which were brutally exposed once again.

And the murmurings of discontent are already being heard, with Spanish daily OK Diario reporting that club officials have "held talks" with Solari to thrash things out.

Worse may come for Solari's walking wounded at Rome's Stadio Olimpico, with Nacho Fernandez, Sergio Reguilon, Alvaro Odriozola and Casemiro all injured.

Casemiro, who was sorely missed at Eibar, will be the biggest blow for Real, who do not have a natural replacement for the defensive midfielder who is one of the world's best in his position.

But Roma sporting director Monchi remains wary of Real, who are "favourites in any competition that they're in".

In an interview with Spanish daily Marca, he expressed his surprise at their "unexpected" poor form this season. He also vowed that the Italian side, last season's semi-finalists and seventh in Serie A this term, would make amends for their Sept 19 thrashing .

"(I expect) a totally different one to the Bernabeu (meeting), for us not to suffer as much and that we see the Roma of the last 11/2 years in the Champions League and at home," he added.

"A team that dominates with a winning mentality. I would like to see an ambitious team that confronts Real Madrid head on.

"In terms of motivation, Roma are going into this game at 100 per cent. There have been many changes this year and we've had to go through a process of transition to find our ideal team.

"Now we are closer to where we want to be. The squad know each other better and we are getting to a good level."

ROMA V REAL MADRID

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2018, with the headline 'Roma on revenge mission against wounded Real'. Print Edition | Subscribe