Roma and Atletico Madrid clash at the Stadio Olimpico on Tuesday evening.
Ahead of it, we look at the key talking points.
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Atletico Madrid’s Champions League record in recent years really is ridiculously good, especially from the defensive perspective with Jan Oblak and his defence keeping no less than 21 clean sheets in the competition in the last three seasons alone.
Diego Simeone’s men were at their stingy best this weekend, restricting hosts Valencia to zero shots on target in their goalless La Liga draw despite leaving starting central defensive duo Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez on the bench.
The Uruguayan pair will be back in action tonight, and Roma will be able to congratulate themselves on a pretty significant triumph if they manage to breach Atletico’s defences even once.
No other team in the world makes it as difficult for the opposition to create clear chances, and that makes Atletico among the leading Champions League contenders again this season.
During Atletico’s period of success under the leadership of Simeone, one constant has been the presence of Gabi in the centre of midfield.
The club captain is a technically limited player – explaining his failure to earn a single cap for Spain – but his lion-hearted mentality and tactical awareness have made him the perfect player for his manager, who has very much treated Gabi as his right-hand man on the field of play.
But Gabi is now 34 years old and entering the twilight of his career, forcing Simeone to contemplate the future of his team without his skipper. And the man who could step into his shoes is a very different kind of performer, 24-year-old Ghana international Thomas Partey.
The skilled playmaker only started six league games last season but he has played every minute of Atletico’s last two outings, delivering arguably the best performance of his career in the 5-1 victory at Las Palmas before the international break.
If he can shine again, either as a starter or from the bench, it will be another indication that he is ready to assume a more senior role for Simeone, who may decide it’s time to get the Partey started.
Roma come into the game after an unusually long break, with the weather-enforced postponement of last weekend’s league clash with Sampdoria meaning they have not played a competitive game for two and a half weeks.
And they do not have happy memories from their last encounter, suffering a 3-1 home defeat against Inter Milan to seriously subdue early season optimism over their ability to challenge for Serie A honours.
Manager Eusebio Di Francesco, a summer appointment following three impressive seasons with Sassuolo, will be eager to right the wrongs of his team’s last outing and the extended break has given him plenty of time on the training ground.
But players love to play more than they enjoy training, and there’s a real danger of rustiness as Roma belatedly return to action. If that’s the case, expect Atletico to punish them fully.
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