Roma v Real Madrid: Three oppositions players to watch

Zinedine Zidane’s first Champions League match as coach of Real Madrid sees his side travel to Rome for the first leg of the Round of 16 tie.

All eyes will be on Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos but Wayne Girard believes that if Roma are to gain a positive result at home, they’ll need to watch out for three of Madrid’s secret weapons…

Toni Kroos

Seven assists and a 95% pass accuracy, Kroos is the backbone of Madrid’s play. Capable of the most precise passes throughout the pitch, Kroos’s responsibilities include recovering the ball from the defence and distributing it to the attack. Anyone doubting his professionalism and ability only needs to look at the stats from his career so far -  still only 26 years old but already a World Cup winner.

James Rodríguez

Following his headline-grabbing performances during the 2014 World Cup, Rodríguez is now in his second season with Madrid. He’s made the most of Gareth Bale’s injury absence, scoring a long-range stunner over the weekend against Bilbao and now has five goals and six assists with almost three key-passes per match this season. Roma will need to be wary of his darting runs and venomous left foot.

Luka Modric

The Croation international may have turned 30 but he’s been in some of the best form of his career lately. With 26 starts this season between La Liga and the Champions League, Modric has registered four assists and a goal. His pass completion rate (91.4%) is exceptionally high for an advanced central midfielder and his job is to keep the tempo and pace of the attack with short and dynamic passing into the opponent’s final third. Modric’s influence must be limited in order for Roma to halt Madrid’s attack.