With Ronaldo gone it’s no doubt they are still a strong side. Real Madrid have won a record three successive Uefa Champions Leagues and they kick off a new era in the competition at home to a Roma side who are looking to build on their own impressive performances last season.
Having become the first side to successfully retain the Uefa Champions League in 2016/17, Madrid made it three titles in a row last season – just the fourth time in European Cup history a side has triumphed in three or more successive campaigns. That proved a swansong for both coach Zinédine Zidane and talismanic forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who both departed the Santiago Bernabéu in the summer.
Roma, meanwhile, reached the semifinals in 2017/18, producing a memorable comeback to defeat Barcelona in the quarterfinals before losing to eventual runners-up Liverpool in the last four.
The sides have become familiar Uefa Champions League foes in the 21st century – all ten of their meetings have come from September 2001 onwards.
The first six fixtures all came in the group stage, Madrid picking up four points from their two games against Roma in the 2001/02 first group stage and all six in 2004/05, while each club won their away games in the 2002/03 first group stage.
Roma, however, ousted Madrid in the 2007/08 round of 16, winning both legs 2-1.
Most recently, Madrid got the better of Roma in the last 16 of their triumphant 2015/16 campaign, winning 2-0 both away and home with Ronaldo on target in each game.
In 2017/18, Madrid finished second in their group – the second year running they had been runners-up in their section – but went on to beat Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern München in the knockout rounds before Gareth Bale (2) and Karim Benzema scored in the 3-1 final victory against Liverpool in Kyiv.
Madrid’s six-game winning run against Italian opponents was ended by Juventus – who they beat in the 2016/17 Uefa Champions League final in the middle of that run – in last season’s quarterfinal second leg. Madrid were beaten 3-1 at home, but squeezed through having won 3-0 in Turin.
That home defeat by Juve ended Madrid’s five-game unbeaten run against Italian visitors at the Bernabéu (W4 D1).
The Atlético defeat was only Madrid’s fourth in their last 33 European fixtures, winning 22 and drawing seven. Those draws include the 2016 final against Atlético Madrid, which Madrid won on penalties in Milan.
The Merengues have won 34 of their last 42 Uefa Champions League home matches, losing just two – 4-3 to Schalke in their 2014/15 round of 16 second leg and against Juventus. They still won both ties on aggregate.
Third in Serie A in 2017/18, Roma are in the group stage for an 11th time and the fourth in five years.
Roma, runners-up in the 1983/84 European Cup, reached the semifinals last season, losing to Liverpool. They finished top of a group including Chelsea and Atlético Madrid, before beating Shakhtar Donetsk and Barcelona in the knockout rounds – the latter particularly memorable, as a 4-1 away defeat was followed by a 3-0 victory at the Stadio Olimpico – before succumbing to Liverpool.
However, Roma lost all three away matches in last season’s knockout rounds – conceding 11 goals in the process – and are on a four-game losing streak away from home in Europe having also gone down 2-0 at Atlético on matchday five. They won only one of their six away games in last season’s Uefa Champions League – 2-1 at Qarabag on matchday two – and have tasted victory in only three of their last 17 European away encounters (D6 L8).
The Giallorossi have lost on four of their last five trips to Spain, the exception a 4-0 success at Villarreal in the 2016/17 Uefa Europa League round of 32 in which Edin Džeko scored a hat-trick.
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