Previewing Roma vs Real Madrid: History and Present

Roma vs Real Madrid: Past and present

This Wednesday, Real Madrid travel to Rome to take on AS Roma in the first leg of their Round of Sixteen encounter against the Giallorossi — how will Roma fare against the Spanish royalty?

Unfortunately for Roma, much of the sporting world believes that they will ultimately fail in their attempt to surpass Real Madrid. Paddy Power, for instance, lists Roma at 16/5 to win at the time of publication. This lack of faith isn’t without just cause; Roma have been in terrible form only until the start of February, and even since overcoming their woes have been quite shaky. One could attribute it to loss of confidence as this seems to have been the most likely case; Roma haven’t looked the same since their drubbing at the hands of Barcelona back in November.

Like every two-legged affair for Roma in recent years, the second fixture has been approached with either too much confidence or has been the result of too much performance anxiety. The most famous of these was of course, the 2006-2007 Champions League quarter-finals against Manchester United, beating the Red Devils at home before losing 7-1 at Old Trafford. History has proven to not be amicable for the Giallorossi. Yet surprisingly, the one team that they’ve held a tremendous record against is Real Madrid. They’ve lost only once at the Santiago Bernabeu in four visits, not an easy feat.

Roma and Real Madrid, 2015
Roma and Real Madrid, 2015

Though they did play out to a nil-nil draw this past summer in the International Champions Cup, with Roma winning from the penalty spot thanks to a Seydou Keita goal, surely no one can expect to gauge this as a true test between the two giants of La Liga and Serie A. The last truly competitive match between these two occurred in 2008, with Roma overcoming Real in the round of sixteen. It was a convincing victory over the two legs, a master class from their manager at the time — Luciano Spalletti. He’s been a rather popular name in Rome these days, hasn’t he?

Since that last Champions League encounter in the 2008 edition of the tournament, only remain five players remain from both clubs — the eternal Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, and Pepe (though Sergio Ramos and Marcelo were in the squad, they did not participate in the second leg).

Heading into Wednesday, Real Madrid have a full, healthy and hungry squad while Roma have had injuries to several key players including De Rossi and Totti, in addition to the exhilarating Mohamed Salah. Kevin Strootman won’t be ready in time though he has been training with the first team (it’s been nearly two years since he reached his peak before succumbing to various knee issues), so it looks like a midfield trio of Miralem Pjanić, Radja Nainggolan and Keita along with Diego Perotti, Eden Džeko and Stephen El Shaarawy up front. El Shaarawy and Perotti have been revelations in Roma’s revival of late, catalysts in all three of their last stretch of victories.

No doubt Roma will attempt to stifle Madrid’s fluidity by utilizing this 4-3-3 as opposed to the 3-4-3 they used against Juventus. Perhaps it will end in a draw, with the return leg on March 8th being a more open affair. At any rate, let’s take a look at how these teams fared historically against one another.

Roma vs Real Madrid: 2001 — Group A — Preliminary Group Stage

Luis Figo - September 11th, 2001
Luis Figo – September 11th, 2001

The first two meetings of the modern era, Roma were the reigning Italian champions with Real Madrid nearing the end of the true Galactico era. Real Madrid would go on to win their third Champions League title in five seasons.

September 11th: 2-1 Real Madrid

Aside from the date being etched in history for reasons more noteworthy than sport, Luis Figo and Guti Hernandez put two past Ivan Pelizzoli before Totti scored a consolation penalty.

October 24th: 1-1

Once more Totti and Figo found themselves on the score sheet, and it would be enough for Roma to make it through to the second round of group stages, finishing two points ahead of Lokomotiv Moscow.

2002 — Group C

ROME - 17 SEPTEMBER: Damiano Tommasi of Roma tangles with Roberto Carlos of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League First Phase Group C match between AS Roma and Real Madrid at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy on September 17, 2002. Real Madrid won 3-0. (photo by Gary M.Prior/Getty Images)
Damiano Tommasi and Roberto Carlos -September 17, 2002. (Gary M.Prior/Getty Images)

The Galacticos were now champions of Europe yet again, and had everything to prove. Roma meanwhile, would be nearing the end of their most legendary era; the club would find itself in financial ruin before too long with many of its stars departing in a year which saw four managerial changes.

September 17th: 3-0 Real Madrid

With a Raúl goal sandwiched in between two Guti goals, this along with an identical score between the two sides in 2004 is the most single sided a match has been. Roma were missing both Gabriel Batistuta and Totti; thus Greek international Traianos Dellas slotted into Fabio Capello’s side in order for them to deploy a 3-5-2 formation.

October 30th: 1-0 Roma

The fifth Matchday ended in surprise for many, thanks to a Totti goal in the 27th minute that secured Roman revenge at the Santiago Bernabeu. Resounding comeback for the Giallorossi, and one of determination.

2004 — Group B

Not a year to remember for Roma supporters, what with the financial doom and disappointing Champions League campaign. As a result, several youngsters were promoted to the first team including Daniele De Rossi and Alberto Aquilani. Antonio Cassano would go on to Real Madrid the following season.

September 28th: 4-2 Real Madrid

Roma would go up by two goals to nil inside the first half hour thanks to a 21-year old Daniele De Rossi and a 22-year old Antonio Cassano. Alas, it was not to be. Figo converted a penalty, Roberto Carlos got one and Raúl netted a brace by the 90th minute. Truly an extraordinary come back.

December 8th: 3-0 Real Madrid

The original, Brazilian Ronaldo scored in the 9th minute for Real in a match that was not to be remembered if you were a Roma supporter. Figo would come to haunt Roma yet again, the Portuguese superstar converting another penalty before a goal from open play. It was a classic Galactico masterpiece, with names like David Beckham, Michael Owen and Zinedene Zidane contributing. It also marked the return of Walter Samuel to the Stadio Olimpico, the centre-back being a key contributor in Roma’s finer years.

2008 — Round of 16

Future Roma defender Gabriel Heinze looks away as Roma celebrate
Future Roma defender Gabriel Heinze looks away as Roma celebrate

It is at this stage of the Champions League in which these two clubs find themselves in again. With Luciano Spalletti’s arrival in 2005 from Udinese, he was able to transform Roma into not just a domestic but international power with meagre resources at his disposal. Roma won 4-2 on aggregate against post-Galacticos Madrid, whose megastars had departed for greener pastures abroad.

February 19th: 2-1 Roma

Raúl opened the scoring for Madrid within nine minutes, much to the dismay of the home crowd yet David Pizarro was quick to equalize. Mancini would go on to score the winner in the second half giving Roma the first leg advantage.

March 5th: 2-1 Roma

Goals from Rodrigo Taddei and Mirko Vučinić in the 2nd half of the second leg wrapped up the tie for Luciano Spalletti’s side. Despite a Raúl goal midway through the second half, Roma would still have gone through on goal differential if the score remained 1-1.

Main Photo: 30/10/02 – Real Madrid vs Roma – Gabriel Batistuta and Ivan Helguera.
Credit:Offside Sports Photography / Offside.

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