Real Madrid CF have every reason to be confident in their first knockout round first leg as they visit AS Roma to play in a stadium where they have never lost.
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AS Roma will not be relying on the history books for inspiration before they take on Real Madrid CF in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round. In three previous home games with the nine-time winners of Europe's most prestigious club competition they have lost every time, on the last two occasions by three-goal margins.
• Luciano Spalletti's team will hope that their maturing knowledge of how to compete at this rarefied level will help them amend that disappointing sequence. Last season was their best campaign for 23 years in Europe's élite club competition, reaching the quarter-finals. Although it all ended emphatically with a 7-1 loss at Manchester United FC, they had impressed in the previous round with a 2-0 aggregate win against Olympique Lyonnais, secured through first-half strikes from Francesco Totti and Mancini in the second leg in France. The home game had ended goalless.
• Roma are unbeaten in this campaign at home. Starting with a 2-0 win against FC Dynamo Kyiv, they followed that by beating Sporting Clube de Portugal 2-1 and then gained a 1-1 draw at home to Manchester United to seal their place as runners-up in Group F on eleven points, five behind the Old Trafford club. They have not lost in their last eight UEFA Champions League home games and will probably believe they need another home win to give them the best chance of removing Bernd Schuster's team from their path.
• Madrid's three wins away to Roma, all in this competition, came in the 2004/05 group stage through goals from Ronaldo and two from Luís Figo, the 2002/03 first group stage – where Guti was twice on the scoresheet and Raúl González scored the other – and the same stage of the previous campaign. Then, a 2-1 win was secured by goals from Guti and Figo with Francesco Totti scoring Roma's reply. Madrid have also travelled to face Roma's neighbours, S.S. Lazio, on two occasions and returned with 2-2 draws each time. They have therefore yet to lose a game at the Stadio Olimpico.
• That is a foreboding record when set against Roma's struggles against visitors from Spain. Their ten previous matches have produced as many defeats (five) as victories with no draws. In aggregate terms they have won only four of the ten contests. However, they got the better of their last visitors from Spain, beating Valencia CF 1-0 in last season's group stage through Christian Panucci's early header.
• Players in the starting lineup when Madrid were last in Rome to face the Giallorossi were Philippe Mexes, Matteo Ferrari, Simone Perrotta, Alberto Aquilani and Mancini for Roma and Iker Casillas, Míchel Salgado, Raúl González and Guti for Madrid.
• Schuster's team finished level on eleven points with Olympiacos CFP in Group C, taking first place through their superior head-to-head record. They failed to win any of their away fixtures, drawing 2-2 at Lazio and 0-0 in Athens with Olympiacos before going down 3-2 at Werder Bremen. They have not won in their last five UEFA Champions League away games and have managed only one win in their last nine.
• Last season Los Merengues' European campaign ended in the first knockout round in Germany with defeat by FC Bayern München. At one stage they led 3-1 in the home leg with goals from Raúl (2) and Ruud van Nistelrooy but Mark van Bommel struck in the 88th minute and that helped Bayern to turn round the deficit at home and qualify on away goals. Van Nistelrooy scored a late penalty in Munich but it was all to no avail.
• Although Madrid have enjoyed success in Rome, their record against all Italian sides in that country is not so commendable. In a total of 24 fixtures their record reads won four, drawn five, lost 15.
• Madrid have a 75 per cent success rate against Italian foes in finals, beating Juventus in the 1997/98 UEFA Champions League showpiece in Amsterdam and ACF Fiorentina and AC Milan as part of their outstanding run of five successive victories at the start of the European Champion Clubs' Cup. They lost out to FC Internazionale Milano in the 1964 final in Vienna.