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Mexes is ready to make amends

AS Roma defender Philippe Mexes is confident that the Giallorossi can put stuttering domestic form behind them for Tuesday's first-leg visit from Real Madrid CF.

Philippe Mexes needs no reminder of the last time he crossed paths with Real Madrid CF, Tuesday's visitors to the Stadio Olimpico. The AS Roma defender was asked how he felt about facing the Spanish champions for the first time in the eve-of-match press conference and interjected quickly: "It's not the first time – I've already lost 3-0 to them."

That December 2004 defeat was the last in a miserable UEFA Champions League campaign for Roma, goals from Luís Figo (two) and Ronaldo resulting in a fifth loss in six games in the 2004/05 competition. It is a measure of how far Roma have come since, that despite their presence in the knockout stage for the second season running and their status as Serie A's second-placed team, the focus of journalists' questions to both Mexes and his coach Luciano Spalletti should be the Giallorossi's supposed slipping standards.

'A big match'
Saturday's 1-0 reverse at Juventus was Roma's second in three matches in the Italian top flight but Mexes played down talk of a crisis. "We've prepared as usual," said the French international, looking forward to the first leg of this first knockout round tie. "It's an important match, a big match, and we're just looking forward to getting out there.

"We have a good team and we just have to concentrate on our own game and then see what happens. We have a lot of faith in ourselves," added the 25-year-old, who will likely be joined in the centre of Roma's defence by Juan following the Brazilian's recovery from a foot injury. With Christian Panucci and Ludovic Giuly also hopeful of starting roles, it may be a more experienced Roma side than the one beaten by Juventus. "It was difficult without them, even if we have a lot of confidence in all the players in the group," said Mexes.

Aiming high
Mexes himself, who appeared in five of Roma's group games during the course of which they managed a solitary shutout, admits he has fallen below his best at times this term but is working hard to put that right. "I am training as usual. I know I still have the confidence of my coach, I am doing everything I can to improve and get to the level I had last season." A clean sheet against Madrid, who have never failed to score in five previous fixtures at the Stadio Olimpico, would be the perfect start.