Reigning European champions Real Madrid open their 2018-19 title defence against Roma at the Bernabéu on Wednesday with a record within their grasp but facing a side who are among the most successful among their continental rivals on home turf.
Debuts: Madrid have now gone 11 seasons without losing their opening match of a Champions League campaign. The last side to beat Real in the first round of fixtures was Lyon in 2006-07, the Ligue 1 side recording a 2-0 home victory courtesy of goals from Fred and Tiago. Only Barcelona (19 seasons), Bayern Munich (14) and AC Milan (13) have better opening-day records than Julen Lopetegui’s side.
Cristiano Ronaldo absent: Madrid have not started a Champions League campaign without their former talisman since September 17, 2008, when they beat BATE Borisov 2-0 at the Bernabéu with Ruud van Nistelrooy and Raúl on target for the hosts. The complete Madrid starting XI that day was: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Fabio Cannavaro, Gabriel Heinze, Marcelo, Fernando Gago, Guti, Rafael Van der Vaart, Arjen Robben, Raúl and Van Nistelrooy.
Roma: Wednesday’s visitors have a record of two victories, one draw and two defeats in competitive matches at the Bernabéu and are one of only three sides who have beaten Madrid at home twice in the history of the Champions League, along with Bayern Munich and Juventus.
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Home scoring record: Real have now scored in 42 consecutive Champions League games at home, a run that started after Barcelona won 2-0 at the Bernabéu in the semi-finals of the competition in 2010-11. If Lopetegui’s side find the net against Roma they will beat a record held by Tottenham Hotspur, who also went 42 European games between 1961 and 1984 without failing to score at White Hart Lane, a run that was eventually broken by Real Madrid in a 1-0 victory in London in 1985.
Group stage success: Real Madrid have never been eliminated from the Champions League at the first hurdle, progressing from the group stage in every one of their 26 participations in the modern format and winning their group 15 times. Roma have been knocked out in the group stage on four occasions, progressing eight times out of 12 attempts but as group winners on only two occasions (2008-09 and 2017-18).
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Lopetegui: This will be the Real Madrid manager’s third Champions League participation after he took Porto to the quarter-finals in 2014-15, when they were knocked out by Bayern Munich. The following season Lopetegui failed to get out of the group stage with the Portuguese club, finishing third in Group G behind Chelsea and Dynamo Kiev.
2018-19 managers: Of the 32 managers starting this season’s tournament only three have won the competition before: Carlo Ancelotti (Milan (2) and Real Madrid), José Mourinho (Porto and Inter) and Pep Guardiola (Barcelona). Ancelotti will be taking charge of his eighth club in the Champions League, a competition record.