Tuesday night’s big ticket fixture in the Champions League sees a wounded Roma – who slipped against Udinese – host a demoralised Real Madrid – they were humiliated by Eibar.
However, both teams were successful in their last European engagement and sit pretty at the top of the table with nine points each, Los Blancos enjoying the head-to-head advantage.
This tie can potentially determine the group winner. We take a look at the tactics Eusebio Di Francesco and Santiago Solari will be looking to employ in this crucial clash.
TARGET MAN: EDIN DZEKO
Getting the best out of the Bosnia and Herzegovina striker should lead the agenda for Di Francesco. With the mess the Madrid’s defence find themselves, Dzeko’s role as the target-man will be crucial to Roma’s chances.
The 32-year-old is great at timing his runs into the box and he will be looking to convert the crosses from Cengiz Under and Stephen El-Shaarawy, who are now accustomed to a narrower role in Roma’s 4-2-3-1 formation.
Dzeko will also drop in and create for Javier Pastore, who likes make advanced runs. The former Manchester City forward’s role as a 10 and a nine will form the fulcrum of their attack.
With Alvaro Odriozola picking up a knock in his disaster-class against Eibar, Daniel Carvajal is touted to start his first game after his return from injury. In his ventures in the final third, Marcelo often compromises on his defensive duties and gets caught out of position, leaving acres of space behind him.
With El Shaarawy and Under deployed in a narrower role, Alessandro Florenzi and Aleksander Kolarov will be looking to create overloads on the wings and hand Roma a numerical superiority in the final third.
The pair should be careful not to get caught out themselves, but with Daniele De Rossi dropping deep and the central pair of Kostas Manolas and Federico Fazio spreading out, this should be a calculated risk for Roma.
REAL MADRID TACTICS
THE MISSING SCREEN AND MIDFIELD BATTLE
The absence of injured midfielder Casemiro proved costly for Los Blancos against Eibar. Including a screen in front of defence should take precedence over winning the midfield battle for Solari because Dani Ceballos and Luka Modric will have to work extra-hard to make up for the hole left vacant by the Brazilian.
Solari could ensure Modric to play a deeper role to provide support to Ceballos, thus freeing up space in attacking midfield that can be taken up by Isco. It’s unlikely that the visitors can overcome a midfield of Pastore, Steven Nzonzi and De Rossi and must therefore avoid the battle altogether.
And Isco can’t ask for a better opportunity than this to assert himself as a starter ahead of Marco Asensio.
UNSETTLE THE CENTRE-BACKS
Manolas and Fazio constitute one of the finest centre-halves in Europe. The pair are aerially sound, physically strong and stand tall in set-pieces. However, a mobile striker can cause all sorts of problems to the Roma defence.
Karim Benzema’s movement to unsettle the centre-backs can work very well in Real Madrid’s favour if he executes it as perfectly as he did in the Champions League finals against Liverpool.
Manolas and Fazio are not the fastest running back to their own goal and quick transitions can hurt the hosts. Benzema should be agile and alert to feed on the opportunities when the centre-backs lose their concentration.
Roma enter the tie as favourites, a 2-1 win for the hosts is on the cards.
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