Julen Lopetegui will make his Champions League bow as Real Madrid manager when the reigning champions host Roma at the Bernabéu on Wednesday night.
All eyes on the spot
Real Madrid and Barcelona are constantly vying to nose in front of each other in one way or another and Madrid can perhaps do so on Wednesday night during the visit of Roma to the Bernabéu. In the history of the Champions League, which came into existence in 1992, there have been 634 penalties awarded with the two Liga giants accounting for almost 13 percent of them. Real and Barça have taken 42 spot kicks in the competition. Madrid are also the side to have conceded the most penalties in the competition with 23.
Vinicius in the firing line, out of the side
Since his arrival in the Spanish capital last summer, the 18-year-old Brazilian has failed to make an appearance for the senior side. Vinicius has been on the bench twice, in the European Super Cup and the opening Liga match against Getafe but has not managed a single minute under Lopetegui despite Madrid splashing out 45 million euros to sign him. That has led the president of Segunda B outfit Cultural Leonesa to complain that the Brazilian’s presence in the third-tier, where he has played three times and scored three goals in 2017-18, is “undermining the competition.” According to Transfermarkt.com, Real Madrid Castilla have the highest market value of any side in Group I, where Cultural also play, at just over 40 million euros. Second are Cultural themselves, with a market value of 6.95 million. Last season they topped the list.
Roma at the double
Only three sides in history have beaten Real Madrid twice at the Bernabéu in competitive European action: Bayern Munich, Juventus, and Wednesday’s Serie A opponents. The last time Roma were successful in Madrid was in the 2007-08 competition, when a pair of 2-1 victories in the first knock-out round saw the Italians through to the quarter-finals.
Lopetegui makes his bow
The Real Madrid boss will be aiming to overturn that record on Wednesday when he gets the club’s title defence underway. His only previous experience of the Champions League came at Porto, who he guided to the quarter-finals in 2014-15 before going out in the group stage the following season. “I expect an ambitious and aggressive team; it is the style of Roma. They are a well-prepared team,” said Lopetegui ahead of the game, after his side were accused of lacking just that in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Athletic.
Navas or Courtois, Courtois or Navas…?
The man between the sticks for Real’s record three consecutive Champions League campaigns, Keylor Navas has now found his place under serious threat from Thibaut Courtois, who won the Golden Glove at the 2018 World Cup. Navas has 14 clean sheets and 33 goals conceded from 38 appearances in Europe’s elite club competition, while Courtois has 28 between his spells at Chelsea and Atlético, managing 10 clean sheets and conceding 30 times. It’s a close call and Lopetegui’s cards were typically close to his chest in his pre-match press conference: “I will not say anything at all. We have great options in goal and we will make the decision that we make, and for sure we will succeed. I will not say who will play.” Both keepers may have to get used to that this season.