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Defending Champions Start with Roman Test

 

Real Madrid have been the team to beat over the past three seasons in the Champions League. 

They won a third Champions League in a row last season under the guidance of Zinedine Zidane, defeating Liverpool in an action-packed final.

This summer has seen plenty of change at the Santiago Bernabeu.  Zidane has left the club and former Spain manager Julen Lopetegui has taken control of the team.  Perhaps an even bigger change has seen Cristiano Ronaldo leave Real Madrid to join Juventus.

Ronaldo has been the top scorer in each of the last three Champions League campaigns and holds the record for the most goals scored in the history of the competition.  How will Real Madrid cope with the Portuguese?

The early signs have been good this season.  Real Madrid sit 2 points off the leaders in La Liga, having won three and drawn one of their four league games. They were held to a 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao on the weekend, a place which always tough for opposition teams and remain unbeaten.

Trends show Real Madrid have lost only one of their last fourteen games in all competitions and have a strong record at home in the Champions League.  Real Madrid have lost only one of their last twenty-one Champions League games at the Santiago Bernabeu but both teams have scored in each of the last six.

Roma reached the semi-final of the Champions League last season against all the odds.  Having been drawn in a group containing Atletico Madrid and Chelsea, Roma were expected to miss out but topped the group.  They also defeated Barcelona in the quarter-final but despite a strong comeback in the home leg against Liverpool, Roma fell at the semi-final stage.

Roma have had a mixed start to the 2018/19 season in Italy. They started with a decent 1-0 win at Torino and were expected to build on that with a home win against Atalanta.  Having fallen 3-1 down in the first half, Roma battled back to take a point but were then defeated 2-1 at the San Siro against AC Milan, conceding a goal in the last minute.

On the weekend, Roma surrendered a two goal lead at home to Chievo to draw 2-2, which is less than ideal preparation for this match.

Trends show Roma struggle on the road in the Champions League.  They have lost each of their last four away games and have won only one of their last sixteen.  Conceding goals was a big problem last season and Roma conceded 17 goals in six away matches.  However, Roma scored in each of those seven games.

Looking ahead to the team news and Real Madrid have their first choice XI all available.  Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio are expected to form the front three.

Roma have doubts over midfielder Javier Pastore but he is their only concern.  Daniele De Rossi should be fit enough to start in central midfield and Edin Dzeko is expected to start up-front with support from Cengiz Under and Stephan El Shaarawy.

Real Madrid are the favourites to win this match and should start with maximum points. Roma could get on the score sheet but Real Madrid will have too much for the Italians.

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Real Madrid meet derby rivals Atletico Madrid in UEFA Super Cup

Champions League winners Real Madrid clash with derby rivals and Europa League winners Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.

The fixture will see Real Madrid compete for their third straight Super Cup.

Los Blancos have won the trophy in each of the last two seasons.However, this year’s Real Madrid squad is far different than the previous incarnations.

Atletico Madrid go into Wednesday night’s game having had a tremendous summer in the transfer market. The club signed highly-sought after French winger Thomas Lemar and exciting defensive midfielder Rodri. Most importantly, the club kept all of its major players.

Antoine Griezmann, Diego Costa, and Jan Oblak all stayed with two of the three signing new contracts. While Atletico had so-so preseason friendly results, their losses to Paris Saint-Germain and Internazionale could be down to the club’s top players still recovering from the World Cup and not playing in most cases.

Real Madrid’s summer was dominated by the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus.Thibaut Courtois arrived from Chelsea, however, his signing won’t replace the goals of Ronaldo. Real Madrid are in a transition phase and it doesn’t look likely the club will replace Ronaldo’s goals before August 31 when the transfer window closes.

Ronaldo’s exit will give Gareth Bale more of a starring role. The Welshman lobbied for a move away last May, but seems to be content with both manager Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo having left. Real Madrid also have a new manager in the dugout. Julen Lupetegui takes over for Zidane and he has big shoes to fill. Lupetegui was sacked on the eve of the World Cup as Spain’s coach. His decision to join Real Madrid had disastrous effects on the Spain team.

There is a power shift taking place in Madrid and La Liga. Atletico finished in second last term while Real Madrid ended in third. Manager Diego Simeone has turned Atletico into a world power and the club has financial backing on the same level as other major European clubs. Griezmann has proven himself to be a big game player. He scored 29 goals in all competitions last term including two in the Europa League final win.

Although Real Madrid have just as good of players as Atletico, the loss of Ronaldo is a major factor. Too often, he carried Real Madrid over the line when the team was struggling. There is no guarantee Real Madrid will be the same as they were in the last few seasons with Ronaldo, so could Wednesday night’s fixture finally see Atletico get the best of their rivals or the dominance of Real Madrid in European matches will continue ? Sportseconds predicts that Champions League winner still have the chance to win another European trophy.

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Leganes 1 Real Madrid 3: Casemiro inspires comeback for Zidane´s men

Real Madrid overcame an early blow and were made to toil after half-time for a 3-1 LaLiga win at Leganes.

The victory moves Zinedine Zidane’s reigning champions up to third in the table above Valencia, although the hosts struck first as defender Unai Bustinza claimed his first senior goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo was given the night off by Zidane and, with Gareth Bale starting on the bench, Casemiro assumed the unlikely role of being Madrid’s creative driving force.

The Brazilian midfielder created the 11th-minute equaliser as Spain winger Lucas Vazquez continued his impressive recent form and converted a glorious winner before the half hour.

Madrid shipped three goals in Sunday’s win at Real Betis but Zidane was grateful to see Sergio Ramos marshalling a more robust backline as 13th-placed Leganes probed without reward during the second period, and the Madrid captain made sure of victory by coolly dispatching a penalty in the final minute.

The European champions are still seven points shy of Atletico Madrid in second and 14 behind leaders Barcelona.

Despite the likes of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Marcelo being out through injury, Zidane still elected to rest Ronaldo and first-choice goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

Madrid made a lackadaisical start and Navas’ replacement Kiko Casilla was picking the ball out of his net in the sixth minute.

Gabriel Pires flicked on a left-wing corner at the near post and, after seeing his initial attempt saved, Bustinza flung himself towards the ball, taking Theo Hernandez’s clearance on the top of his head to net an unusual diving header.

Madrid’s response was impressively swift, with Casemiro intercepting a poor clearance and feeding Karim Benzema before improvising a flick from Mateo Kovacic’s pass that allowed Lucas to clip a precise finish across Ivan Cuellar.

Casemiro was again at the heart of things when Madrid took a 29th-minute lead – this time providing the finishing touch himself after exchanging passes with Benzema and accepting Lucas’ assist to crown a glorious one-touch move.

Madrid were comfortably on top as the half wound down, with Benzema almost heading a third from Lucas’ cross.

Leganes impressively got themselves back on the front foot during the early stages of the second half – Asier Garitano’s double switch, sending on Ruben Perez and Martin Mantovani in place of Dimitrios Siovas and Gerard Gumbau, rewarded with a spirited showing.

Tito slotted a pass down the Madrid left to Nabil El Zhar and Claudio Beauvue got on the end of his low cross to force a point-blank stop from Casilla.

El Zhar had a penalty claim following an untidy challenge from Kovacic rejected – the infringement did appear to take place fractionally outside the area – and Madrid continued to do more work in their own half than they would have liked.

Bale came on 15 minutes from time, curtailing an industrious and accomplished display from the much-maligned Benzema.

The Wales international almost picked out the bottom corner after springing the offside trap, but it was Ramos who grasped the ball and made no mistake when Diego Rico bundled Kovacic to the floor.

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Real Madrid Return to La Liga With Tough Test

The penultimate match of the weekend in La Liga sees defending champions Real Madrid travel to Seville to take on Real Betis.

The hosts found themselves in 8th place at the start of the weekend fixtures and are only 3 points adrift of local rivals Sevilla, who occupy the final Europa League qualifying position. Real Betis will be hoping to close the gap this week.

Real Madrid enjoyed a good result in Europe on Wednesday night but must focus on the league and improve their position. Sitting in 4th at the start of the weekend, Real Madrid do not want to lose further ground on the teams above them in the table.

Real Betis have come back into form in recent weeks, following two straight defeats in La Liga. The first was a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Barcelona on home soil and the second was a 3-2 defeat at Celta Vigo. However, Real Betis have since defeated Villarreal 2-1 at home and Deportivo La Coruna 1-0 on the road.

Quique Setien’s team have been performing better away from home in recent matches and trends show they won three of their last five away La Liga games but only two of the last five at home.

Interestingly, Real Betis do not draw many matches and they have picked up just three draws from their twenty-three La Liga games, with ten wins and ten defeats. They have lost by 2 or more goals in three of their last six home matches.

Real Madrid silenced some of the doubters in mid-week after they defeated Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 at home in the Champions League. This was a good result, especially having gone 1-0 down in the game and they now have a great chance of progressing in the tournament.

Zinedine Zidane will be hoping his players can continue from where they left off in that match because their last away outing in La Liga saw them held to a 2-2 draw at Levante and a similar result in this match will not be good enough.

Real Madrid have enjoyed some big recent wins at home in La Liga but have won only one of their last six on the road. Despite that record, trends show Real Madrid are undefeated in ten of their last twelve league games and are also undefeated in their last eight away from home in all competitions.

Team news and Real Betis are still without the injured trio of Joel Campbell, Antonio Sanabria and Zouhair Feddal. Striker Loren should continue in attack having made a good start following his recent debut.

Real Madrid will be without German midfielder Toni Kroos who has a knee injury and he joins Jesus Vallejo on the treatment table. Zidane may be tempted to make some changes ahead of a busy schedule and Gareth Bale, Theo Hernandez, Dani Carvajal and Marco Asensio could come into the team.

This is going to be a tough match for Real Madrid and the way they have been dropping points away from home, it would not be a huge surprise to see them do it again in this match. This could be a rare draw for Real Betis.

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Real Madrid win five trophies in a calendar year for first time

Real Madrid’s 1-0 win over Gremio on Saturday saw them retain the Club World Cup title and take their trophy haul for a single calender year to five for the first time ever.

Zinedine Zidane’s men dominated from start to finish in Abu Dhabi and deservedly defended their title thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s second-half free-kick, winning them a third Club World Cup in four years.

The triumph means they will end 2017 having lifted five different trophies since the start of the year, an unprecedented achievement for the club.

Madrid’s other four competition successes this year came in LaLiga, the Champions League, the Supercopa de Espana and UEFA Super Cup.

By comparison, their great rivals Barcelona only won the Copa del Rey in 2017, and Madrid will close out the year against the Catalans next Saturday in the first Clasico encounter of the 2017-18 LaLiga season.

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Zidane: Real Madrid want to win Club World Cup

Zidane said Real Madrid want to add the Club World Cup to the trophy cabinet before fighting to retain their LaLiga and Champions League crowns.

Two-time champions Madrid will face Emirati outfit Al Jazira in Wednesday’s semi-final at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

And Madrid are keen to secure their third title of the season, having already claimed the UEFA Super Cup and Supercopa de Espana.

“It will not be easy and last year we had a lot of problems before we managed to win it,” Zidane said.

“There will not be easy games and for just being Real Madrid we are not going to win. We have time to prepare for the game and there are no excuses.

“This is the calendar and whoever we face we need to look at doing what we have to do well.

“It is normal that during the season you have ups and downs but what we have done so far is very positive. We have won two titles and we are trying to win a third.

“After this we will have six months to fight for LaLiga, the Champions League and the cup.”

Madrid are fourth in LaLiga after 15 games, eight points adrift of rivals and leaders Barcelona, while the Spanish capital club are set to face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last 16.

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Real Madrid 3 Malaga 2: Ronaldo settles Bernabeu thriller

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a crucial late winner as Real Madrid gave their LaLiga title defence a much-needed boost with a thrilling 3-2 victory over struggling Malaga at the Santiago Bernabeu.

With 14 minutes remaining, the Portugal international had a penalty saved by Roberto Jimenez but converted the rebound to settle an end-to-end encounter in which Madrid twice lost the lead.

It had looked like Ronaldo was about to suffer another frustrating match in front of goal after missing multiple chances, only for him to be handed a reprieve when substitute Luka Modric won the spot-kick and gave him the chance to score only his second league goal of the season.

Earlier, Karim Benzema headed in what was also his second top-flight goal of the campaign, ending a seven-game scoring drought – the longest of his LaLiga career – in the process.

Diego Rolan capitalised on a Toni Kroos mistake to stun the hosts with an equaliser that was Malaga’s first away goal of the league season, but Casemiro quickly restored order with Madrid’s second headed goal in a frantic start.

After the break, Kiko Casilla then failed to keep out Gonzalo Castro’s 30-yard strike and it looked like Madrid would drop more points until the late drama saw Ronaldo settle the match.

The victory moves Madrid within seven points of leaders Barcelona and three behind second-placed Valencia ahead of their title rivals’ crunch clash at Mestalla on Sunday.

Madrid only took nine minutes to breach Malaga’s backline, as Benzema followed up his double against APOEL with the easiest of finishes.

The chance came after Marcelo’s cross from the left found Ronaldo at the far post and the Portugal forward athletically headed against the crossbar, giving his strike partner a simple task to nod into an empty net on the rebound.

A sliding Dani Carvajal forced Roberto into a diving save and Isco also tested the away goalkeeper from 18 yards, but Malaga stunned the Bernabeu with an 18th-minute equaliser.

Kroos carelessly lost possession deep in his own half as he attempted to pass to Raphael Varane and that allowed Keko’s right-wing cross to find Rolan completely unmarked, the Uruguay international chesting down and drilling in from 12 yards.

However, Madrid responded only three minutes after that strike, Casemiro latching on to Kroos’ curling corner to power a header in from eight yards.

There was a moment of concern for Zinedine Zidane’s men when a Keko delivery led to Castro’s header being hacked away by Varane from close to the goal-line.

Madrid should have extended their lead when Benzema dragged wide from an excellent shooting chance and two efforts from Ronaldo – a first-time curling effort and a thumping header – were impressively kept out by Roberto as Malaga, who lost Juankar to injury, remained in the game.

There was still time for a controversial end to the first half when substitute Paul Baysse sent a magnificent header past Casilla, only for the referee to rule he had fouled Carvajal, leaving Michel demanding answers on the touchline.

Kroos’ powerful strike was pushed away by a busy Roberto early in the second half but a back-and-forth contest took another twist after 58 minutes when Castro collected Keko’s pass and somehow beat Casilla, who should have done better, with a 30-yard strike.

Another Madrid chance passed when Ronaldo failed to turn in Varane’s header from inside the six-yard box after Lucas Vazquez’s threatening delivery had created the opportunity.

Zidane brought on Modric for a quiet Isco and the Croatia midfielder made a vital contribution, being felled by Luis Hernandez in the box after taking a clever touch in latching onto Vazquez’s cross.

Ronaldo, who was short on confidence, went for power from the spot but saw Roberto make an excellent save, only for the rebound to fall kindly for the forward to convert with a left-footed strike, the relief on his face clear to see.

And this time Madrid did not lose their lead, Ronaldo having a second goal ruled out by an offside flag against creator Vazquez in the final minutes as the champions secured a vital victory.

Key Opta stats:

– Cristiano Ronaldo has missed four of the seven penalties he has taken against Malaga in all competitions, more than against any other side for Real Madrid.
– Ronaldo’s goal ended a run of 441 minutes in LaLiga without scoring; his longest run in the competition this season.
– Benzema’s goal ended a run of seven LaLiga home games without scoring; his longest run in the competition as a Real Madrid player.
– Benzema has now scored 10 goals versus Malaga in all comps, more than against any other team in his Real Madrid career (alongside Granada).
– Real Madrid won their first penalty in LaLiga this season, Atletico Madrid are the only LaLiga team yet to win a penalty.
– Malaga are winless in their 17 visits to Santiago Bernabeu in LaLiga (D3 L14) more than any other venue (alongside Mestalla).