AS Roma may be parading two Nigerian youngsters, Sadiq Umar, Nura Abdullahi but all eyes will shine on Zinédine Zidane when AS Roma host Real Madrid CF in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie, with the Spanish side having lost their last eight ties against Italian opposition.
This is the first UEFA Champions League match as Madrid coach for Zidane, the man who replaced Rafael Benítez at the helm in January – and who scored the Merengues’ winning goal in the 2002 final in Glasgow.
Roma have also changed their coach with Rudi Garcia replaced by Luciano Spalletti, who helped the Serie A side overcome Madrid last time they met in this competition.
• The clubs have met eight times in UEFA competition with four wins for Madrid, three for Roma and one draw.
• The clubs met most recently in a pre-season friendly in Melbourne on 18 July last year, Benítez’s first game as Madrid coach. Roma prevailed 7-6 on penalties after a 0-0 draw, Seydou Keita converting the winning kick after Morgan De Sanctis had saved from Lucas Vázquez.
• Their most recent official encounter was in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 in 2007/08 when Spalletti’s Roma recorded 2-1 home and away victories.
• Then as now, the first leg was at the Stadio Olimpico and though Raúl González struck first, Roma hit back through David Pizarro and Mancini to end a run of three home defeats against the Spanish side.
• Francesco Totti scored in the clubs’ first encounter in the 2001/02 first group stage. His penalty could not prevent a 2-1 Madrid win in Rome, where Luís Figo and Guti were on target. Totti then struck again in a 1-1 draw back at the Santiago Bernabéu.
• In the 2002/03 first group stage, a Madrid side including Zidane won again at the Stadio Olimpico (3-0) but Totti got the only goal as Roma turned the tables in the Spanish capital.
• Daniele De Rossi opened the scoring when Madrid beat Roma 4-2 at home in the 2004/05 group stage and they won the return in Rome too (3-0) in the last of Zidane’s 14 career appearances against the Giallorossi (W7 D5 L2).
Roma are looking to reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2008.
They qualified for the last 16 as Group E runners-up behind FC Barcelona, despite winning only one game (3-2 at home v Bayer 04 Leverkusen).