Real Madrid leads 2-0 heading into 2nd leg against Roma
ABS-CBN Sports on Mar 08, 2016 09:53 AM
Real Madrid's Gareth Bale, right, celebrates with teammate Cristiano Ronaldo after scoring a goal against Celta during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Celta Vigo at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday, March 5, 2016. Ronaldo scored four goals and Bale one in Real Madrid's 7-1 victory. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
MADRID (AP) — With some sharp words after a tough loss, Cristiano Ronaldo may just have goaded his Real Madrid teammates into raising their game.
That loss to city rival Atletico was followed by a pair of Spanish league victories — and five goals from Ronaldo — ahead of Tuesday's Champions League match against Roma.
"He's strong, good, and capable of scoring four goals in 35 minutes," Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said of Ronaldo. "I may have hit the ball well from close range, but I never scored four in a match. Few players can have that feeling."
Madrid lost to Atletico 1-0 on Feb. 27, and Ronaldo criticized the rest of squad by saying they were not at his level. The team followed up with a 3-1 win at Levante, and then a 7-1 rout of Celta Vigo.
In the Champions League, Madrid beat Roma 2-0 in the first leg of the last 16. So even a 1-0 loss at home will put the 10-time champions into the quarterfinals.
Roma is coming into the match with seven consecutive Italian league wins, but Madrid has won 28 of their last 33 Champions League matches at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
"We will go to Madrid and try to put in a perfect performance," Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanic said.
Here are some things to know about Tuesday's match:
Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane will be able to field an almost full-strength squad, missing only the injured Karim Benzema.
Zidane included Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Marcelo in his first pre-Champions League training session on Sunday, hours after the win against Celta.
Without Benzema, Madrid's attack will likely fall to Ronaldo and a recently recovered Gareth Bale.
The return of Bale will certainly help the attacking game that Ronaldo criticized after the Atletico loss.
The Welshman's return after seven weeks out culminated with a goal in the rout of Celta — an angled shot against the far post after a powerful run from well inside Madrid's own half.
"It's great to win in this way, to come back, play and score," Bale said. "I'm very happy after a few difficult weeks."
THE TOTTI CASE
Matters off the field continue to cause issues in Rome as "the Totti case" rumbles on.
Francesco Totti has spent his entire career at Roma, turning down transfers to remain with the team he loves. But he recently criticized officials and coach Luciano Spalletti, accusing them of a lack of respect.
The iconic captain turns 40 in September but wants to continue playing, while the club would reportedly prefer him to retire at the end of the season and join the staff.
"He is the history of Roma, the strongest player in our post-war era," Spalletti said. "I have learned so much from him. His plays have been used as examples in training, I have used them with my teams.
"He has given so much to football and to this club and it's right that all that is recognized. I hope he manages to end his career in the most correct way, with what his heart tells him. It's a situation that puts me in difficulty. I have absolute respect for the champion, for the man and for the history of Francesco Totti."
GOING FOR BROKE
Roma's American owner is hoping his side can draw on its domestic form to achieve the unexpected in Madrid.
"It will be difficult in Madrid because we are playing against a great opponent, but I am optimistic," James Pallotta said after a 4-1 win over Fiorentina. "It went a bit badly for us in the first leg, we could have drawn and instead it finished 2-0.
"But I was proud of the team, and I think we can do very well in the return, too. We have to have faith, today we scored four goals and I don't see why we can't score some at Madrid, too."
Associated Press writer Daniella Matar in Milan contributed to this report.