Real Madrid own a comfortable 2-0 lead when they host AS Roma at Santiago Bernabeu in the second leg of their Round-of-16 matchup in Champions League on Tuesday. The Spanish titans have recently bounced back from a home loss to Atletico Madrid by trouncing Levante and Celta Vigo in La Liga matches by a combined score of 10-2, adding some confidence to their European aspirations.
While Real Madrid enter the match with a clear advantage, manager Zinedine Zidane publicly stated that "Roma are a good team" and would not downplay the challenge ahead.
"It's not true that Roma have no chance," said Zidane.
"Their forwards are very good. If you don't do your job properly, you can be eliminated," Zidane added, likely referring to Mohamed Salah, Stephan El Shaarawy and Edin Dzeko.
In the first leg, Zidane was without Gareth Bale, but it didn't matter much. Cristiano Ronaldo scored in the 57th minute, and substitute Jese added the second goal in the 86th minute to give Real Madrid the away goals.
Zidane will have more reinforcements in the second leg. Midfielders Toni Kroos (virus) and Luka Modric (ankle) reportedly trained on Monday.
Roma manager Luciano Spalletti recognized the enormous task in front of his squad, but stressed if they can draw first blood an upset could be in the making.
"I'm asking my team to do the impossible," Spaletti said in his pre-match press conference. "The way they are training allows me to ask that. We have to score early then we'll see what happens—it could change the balance of the tie. We must not be weak mentally and play to lose. If anyone thinks like that with me, they won't even train.
“We must be able to choose when to attack or hold off. We must be confident when taking the initiative. The result in the first leg was harsh seeing how we performed. We were unlucky. We've been improving game by game and this team has enormous potential.”
Roma entered the knockout phase as major underdogs. In the group stage, they were trounced by Barcelona 6-1 at Nou Camp, and lost to Belarusian club FC BATE on the road, 3-2. Roma edged Bayer Leverkusen with a better head-to-head record.
Roma will not have defender Antonio Rudiger due to a thigh injury and midfielder Radja Nainggolan due to a groin injury. Meanwhile, veteran defensive midfielder Daniele De Rossi remains sidelined with calf injuries.
Kickoff: 2:45 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1, ESPN Deportes
Live Stream: Fox Soccer 2 Go
Prediction: Expect another strong effort from Ronaldo. Real Madrid should seize on Roma's desperation and win easily at home. Roma will need a strong defensive effort to avoid a blowout loss.
Predicted Score: Real Madrid over Roma, 3-0