Roma and Real hoping to bounce back

AS Roma and Real Madrid will both be looking to bounce quickly back to form when the pair meet in the Champions League second round first leg.

updated: February 18, 2008 15:22 IST
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AS Roma and Real Madrid will both be looking to bounce quickly back to form when the pair meet in the Champions League second round first leg at Rome's Stadio Olimpico on Tuesday.

The hosts saw their Serie A hopes all but ended on Saturday as they crashed 1-0 at Juventus, leaving them 11 points behind leaders Inter Milan, while nine-time European champions Real saw their lead at the top of La Liga cut to five points after they suffered a 2-1 loss at Real Betis.

It does not augur well for either team, although only a week earlier Real thrashed Valladolid 7-0 and have been playing well for most of the season.

However, their defence looked exposed in Seville on Saturday and that after goalkeeper Iker Casillas had claimed it was the best in world football.

Coach Bernd Schuster dismissed the Betis defeat as a momentary lapse, due in part to underestimating their opponents, something he vowed will not happen in Italy.

"It's a very important game and the players will have a lot more motivation - it'll be nothing like (Saturday)," he insisted.

Real will also likely welcome back defenders Gabriel Heinze and Sergio Ramos to the squad while Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy is expected to have recovered from an ankle problem.

His international midfield team-mate Wesley Sneijder is definitely out though after breaking a rib in training last week.

Roma will welcome back Brazilian defender Juan to their ranks but will probably be more worried about their faltering form.

They have lost two of their last three games and no longer look capable of grinding out the wins they managed earlier in the season.

But their coach Luciano Spalletti seemed unfazed by his team's dip in form, insisting that excitement ahead of the Real match played a part in their downfall in Turin.

"Future matches can have an effect because the players know what is coming up," he said following the Juve loss.

"We are going to have to play well against Real but tactically we won't change aything."

That means Francesco Totti likely to play on his own up front with the likes of Brazilian wingers Alessandro Mancini and Rodrigo Taddei, or even Frenchman Ludovic Giuly, supporting him from out wide.

Spalletti also said there was nothing to be read into Real's disappointing defeat at Betis.

"I can't celebrate, I don't see it helping us in any way," he said.

The last time Real visited Roma in December 2004 they came away with a resounding 3-0 victory but no-one will expect a repeat as Roma are much improved since then.