Zinedine Zidane will begin a new chapter in his Champions League history when he takes charge of Real Madrid in the competition for the first time against Roma, who also have a different man at the helm from the group stages.
Despite conceding 16 goals in the group stage, Spalletti will not sacrifice players to mark Ronaldo out of Wednesday’s game.
The Portuguese forward is the Champions League’s all-time record scorer with 88 goals and has 11 already this season.
“I’m not going to order three players to mark him,” said Spalletti. Speaking ahead of the first leg at the Stadio Olimpico, Spalletti added: “I don’t want to say that my players have one third of Ronaldo’s quality. If so, we’d need 33 players to deal with him.”
Roma won just one match in the group stage and were beaten 6-1 by Barcelona.In contrast Real Madrid won five out of six games, scoring 19 goals in the process.But Spalletti believes his side can still cause an upset against the 10-time European champions.
Madrid’s expulsion from the Copa del Rey and their four-point deficit to in-form league leaders Barcelona, who have a game in hand on Los Blancos, intensifies the need for a strong European campaign.
And striker Karim Benzema hopes they can go all the way for the second time in three years , saying in an interview with Bwin: “We’ve lifted the ‘decima’ (10th) and that was incredible. If we could win the ‘undecima’ (11th) it would go down in footballing history and the history of Real Madrid”.
Roma scraped into this season’s knock-out stage after winning just one group game under Rudi Garcia.
Luciano Spalletti, coach between 2005 and 2009, returned to manage the club last month and the Serie A side are looking much improved.
Players to watch-
Cristiano Ronaldo was in fine form for Real in the group phase, scoring 11 goals, and Zidane is backing him to continue in the same vain in the knockout rounds.
Roma could welcome back experienced duo Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi, both of whom have been struggling with calf problems.
Marcelo has recovered from the shoulder injury that ruled him out of Real’s win over Athletic Bilbao at the weekend and is in contention to start.
AS Roma-ozeko,salah,perotti,el shaarawy,de
|W: 3-1 vs. Carpi||W: 4-2 vs. Athletic Bilbao|
|W: 2-1 vs. Sampdoria||W: 2-1 vs. Granada|
|W: 2-0 vs. Sassuolo||W: 6-0 vs. Espanyol|
|W: 3-1 vs. Frosinone||D: 1-1 vs. Real Betis|
|L: 0-1 vs. Juventus||W: 5-1 vs. Sporting Gijon|
|D: 1-1 vs. Verona||W: 5-0 vs. Deportivo La Coruna|