Welcome to Sports Mole‘s live text coverage of the Champions League group-stage clash between Real Madrid and Roma at the Estadio Bernabeu.
Los Blancos are embarking on a new chapter in the competition without Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo, four months on from lifting the famous trophy for a third successive year.
Tonight’s visitors reached the last four in 2017-18, meanwhile, where they were beaten by Liverpool, but a slow start to their Serie A campaign has already left them playing catch-up in their domestic league.
Follow all of the action as it unfolds in the Spanish capital with our extensive updates below.
7.00pmHello and welcome to Sports Mole‘s live text coverage of the Champions League group-stage clash between Real Madrid and Roma at the Santiago Bernabeu. The defending champions begin this new chapter with a home match against one of last season’s beaten semi-finalists, as they look at lift the famous trophy for a fourth year in a row and a fifth time in six campaigns.
7.02pmLos Blancos’ latest success came back in May when seeing off Liverpool 3-1 in Kiev thanks to a couple of Loris Karius howlers that will live long in the memory. There has been much change since that triumphant night in Ukraine, though, as manager Zinedine Zidane walked out, reportedly due to a breakdown in relationship with president Florentino Perez, while star man Cristiano Ronaldo has also moved on.
SUBS: Courtois, Nacho, Mariano, Lucas Vazquez, Llorente, Asensio, Ceballos
7.06pmStarting with a look at the home team, manager Julen Lopetegui has opted to go with Keylor Navas, and not Thibaut Courtois, for this Group G opener. Courtois, the biggest of Madrid’s summer signings, has started his side’s last two league matches, but there had been suggestions that Navas would be preferred for the European nights. The Costa Rica international has been a lucky omen for Madrid in their recent success and is far from a weak link.
7.08pmIn terms of other changes, Isco – as many predicted – comes into the forward line alongside Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale after impressing from the bench against Athletic Bilbao at the weekend. Casemiro was another who started that match at San Mames on the bench, and he also returns to the starting lineup tonight in a midfield three alongside Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
7.10pmTonight marks Modric’s 100th appearance in the Champions League, incidentally, so it will be a special occasion for him, a few weeks on from being voted in the running for the best male player on the planet. The big-name absentee, I guess, is Marco Asensio, who was particularly impressive for Spain during the international break, scoring one and setting up three in a 6-0 thrashing of Croatia. Isco is the man preferred for this one.
7.12pmROMA TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Olsen; Florenzi, Manolas, Fazio, Kolarov; N’Zonzi, De Rossi, Zaniolo; Under, Dzeko, El Shaarawy
7.14pmThere is some pretty big team news as far as the visitors are concerned, as 19-year-old midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo makes his first appearance for Roma – at the Bernabeu, of all places! Zaniolo joined the Giallorossi from Inter Milan in the summer, having also previously been on the books of Serie B side Virtus Entella. This is quite the leap for the youngster, starting alongside fit-again Daniele De Rossi and Steven N’Zonzi in a three-man midfield.
7.16pmSummer signing N’Zonzi and long-serving midfielder De Rossi need less of an introduction, although the latter’s inclusion does come as a bit of a surprise as he has been carrying an injury. The Roma skipper came off the bench in the 2-2 draw against Chievo at the weekend, however, and is deemed fit enough for a starting spot, so Bryan Cristante has to settle for a spot on the bench, as does Lorenzo Pellegrini.
7.18pmThere is a baptism of fire of sorts for new goalkeeper Robin Olsen, who is tasked with filling Alisson Becker’s boots now that the Brazilian is at Liverpool. Elsewhere, Alessandro Florenzi recently returned after three weeks out and is used at right-back, on the opposite flank to Aleksandar Kolarov. Edin Dzeko once again leads the line, aiming to improve on a record of just one goal from four Serie A starts this term.
7.20pmIsco is preferred to Marco Asensio on the left of Real Madrid’s front three tonight after impressing from the bench at Athletic Bilbao four days ago. Gareth Bale saw his run of scoring in seven successive league games come to an end in that match, although he did assist Isco’s leveller, while Karim Benzema has scored four in four to match his tally from 25 matches last season.
7.22pmIndeed, Benzema is enjoying his best start to a campaign since joining Madrid a decade ago, and he is now just three shy of 200 goals in the famous white strip. Los Blancos, 13-time European champions, are once again backed as many peoples’ favourites to go all the way and lift the trophy down the road next June, despite the loss of Zidane and Ronaldo. This is very much their competition, but can they maintain their dominance without the men who were key to it all.
7.24pmMadrid became the first side to retain the trophy in 2016-17 when beating Juventus 4-1 in Cardiff, 12 month on from seeing off Atletico Madrid on penalties at San Siro. Then came the memorable Gareth Bale-inspired triumph against Liverpool four months ago, ensuring that the white ribbons remain on the trophy for a third year in a row. It is not quite an unprecedented achievement in European Cup terms, but no other side had retained the trophy in the Champions League era.
7.26pmLos Blancos have now reached the semi-finals or better in each of the last eight seasons and are strong favourites to do so again, having been placed in a group that also contains minnows CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen. There are some tough groups this year, but Group G is not really one of them, with Roma the only side likely to challenge Lopetegui’s men for top spot. Rotation is a possibility further down the line, but that is not the case tonight.
7.28pmDomestically speaking, though, Madrid have disappointed for too long now. A third-placed finish in the Spanish top flight last season was masked by their latest Champions League success, but one La Liga title in six seasons, and just two since 2008/09, is simply not good enough for a side of Los Blancos’ stature. Finishing above Barcelona, as they did two years ago, is not exactly a priority, but they have relied too heavily on the European stage over the past decade.
7.30pmMadrid started life under Lopetegui in impressive style by winning their first three league outings, but they dropped points for the first time on Saturday when travelling to San Mames. Still, they have two more points than at this stage last season in what was an extremely disappointing under Zinedine Zidane, domestically speaking. It has been a mixed start on the whole, as Los Blancos also lost 4-2 to Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.
7.32pmDespite lifting the European Cup in three successive seasons, Madrid have actually failed to top their group in each of the last two campaigns, most recently finishing below Tottenham Hotspur. It is in the knockout stages that Madrid really come to life, particularly in 2017-18 as they saw off French champions Paris Saint-Germain, Italian champions Juventus, German champions Bayern Munich and then Liverpool in the final.
7.34pmMadrid were also in one of the tougher groups, with Borussia Dortmund falling early, so you can hardly question whether their success was deserved. As already touched upon, though, they are now without the mastermind behind that success, while their undisputed star man on European nights – there are simply too many scoring statistics to cover – has also since left. Tonight we get to see the new-look Madrid for the first time in Europe.
7.36pmDID YOU KNOW? Real Madrid were beaten 3-1 here by Juventus in the quarter-final second leg last season, ending their six-match winning run against Italian opposition, and a five-game run on home soil. At the Bernabeu on the European stage, Los Blancos have won 34 of their last 42 matches, losing just two of those – that aforementioned meeting with Juve in April and a 4-3 defeat to Schalke in 2015.
7.38pmDefeat to Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup last month was just Real Madrid’s fourth in their last 33 UEFA matches. It was also the first time that they have lost an international final since 2000, when going down to Boca Juniors in the equivalent of the Club World Cup, but Julen Lopetegui has since taken 10 points from a possible 12 in La Liga.
7.40pmPREVIOUS MEETINGS! These two sides have become familiar with one another in the 21st century, facing off 10 times since their first encounter in September 2001. The first six of those matches came in the group phase, with Real Madrid collecting 13 points from a possible 18, but Los Blancos were second best when the sides faced off in the last 16 a decade ago.
7.42pmMore recent than that was their showdown at the same stage two years ago, when Madrid won both legs 2-0 to ease through to the quarter-finals; Cristiano Ronaldo, inevitably, on target in the home and away legs. Roma performed even better last term, as they enjoyed a famous run to the semi-finals, memorably overcoming Spanish champions Barcelona on the way. The 3-0 second-leg win in Rome will go down in the history books.
7.44pmRoma also topped a group that contained Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, prior to overcoming Shakhtar Donetsk and Barcelona in the first two knockout rounds, but they met their match in Liverpool – what a tie that turned out to be. Since that famous run, the Giallorossi have lost goalkeeper Alisson Becker and midfielder Radja Nainggolan, while Kevin Strootman was another of the high-profile summer departures.
7.46pmDi Francesco has reinvested the funds wisely, though, by bringing in Ante Coric, Bryan Cristante, Justin Kluivert, Javier Pastore, Steven N’Zonzi and Robin Olson, among others, for their latest European charge. A vast overhaul inevitably requires time to get things right, however, and Roma have taken just five point from the first 15 on offer to find themselves ninth in the table and already seven points off the pace.
7.48pmSince winning at Torino on the opening day, Roma have draw at home to Atalanta and Chievo, sandwiched by defeats away at AC Milan and Benevento. Up next are Bologna, Frosinone and arch-rivals Lazio, before switching attention back to the Champions League and the visit of Viktoria Plzen on October 2 – the fixture come thick and fast over the next few weeks, so those new players must quickly adapt.
7.50pmThis is Roma’s 11th appearance in the group phase of the Champions League and the fourth time that they have made it to this stage in five years. They lost all three away knockout fixtures after topping their group in 2017-18, conceding 11 goals in the process to Shakhtar, Barcelona and Liverpool, and going further back it is four successive losses as they also went down 2-0 to Atletico Madrid before that.
7.52pmIt was just the one away win in six last season, in fact, coming at Qarabag in the first of those outings, and they have just three victories in 17 European away games when looking further back. In terms of their record on Spanish soil, the Giallorossi have lost on four of their last five visits, the exception being a 4-0 success at Villarreal in the 2016-17 Europa League when Edin Dzeko scored a treble.
Julen Lopetegui: “Last season, Roma knocked out Atletico Madrid in the group stages and then Barcelona in the quarter-finals, we should not underestimate them under any circumstances. That season they were semi-finalists but now I believe they have made improvements and are a stronger team – now they have more depth with the same coaching staff. It is important to have that continuity in terms of the coach and his staff because then there will be clearer ideas of playing and they will be further down that road.”
Eusebio Di Francesco: “Real will continue to win a lot, they aren’t known as Real Ronaldo. In Italy, as in Spain, judgements are made too quickly and Marco Asensio is a player I like very much, he’s the future of Real Madrid. He can be very good for the team and he expresses himself in matches at a very high level. Nobody would have asked us last year whether we thought we could achieve what we did. After what has been done, the expectations increase accordingly. We have to improve our performance as a result, as we did something extraordinary and that’s what we’re trying to repeat.”
7.56pmLopetegui is wary of Roma’s threat, rightly pointing out that they had an impressive record in last season’s competition – especially against Spanish opposition. Interestingly, the Madrid boss also feels that the opposition have strengthened with the addition of the likes of N’Zonzi, Cristante and Pastore, despite Alisson Becker and Radja Nainggolan heading for the exit since the Giallorossi’s run to the 2017-18 semi-finals.
7.58pmDi Francesco is confident that Madrid will continue to be a force on the continent, meanwhile, despite losing Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus during the summer. The Roma boss also talked up opposition attacker Marco Asensio, who starts tonight’s contest on the bench. A reminder that Isco is preferred to his Spanish teammate, while the visitors have thrown in unknown youngster Nicolo Zaniolo from the off.
1 minKICKOFF: Defending champions Real Madrid get us up and running at the Santiago Bernabeu. Three Group G points are on the line in the Spanish capital, where the final will be held – down the road at Atletico Madrid’s ground – a little over eight months from now.
3 minGareth Bale is out on the right and Isco on the left. Marcelo though that he was in behind a few moments ago after latching on to Isco’s pass, but the offside flag was correctly raised. The hosts not afraid to push their full-backs high up.
5 minCLOSE! This would have been quite some goal had Gareth Bale found the target. A long pass from Toni Kroos was brilliantly controlled by the Welshman, but he flashed the ball inches wide – it grazed the post on its way through – and Roma can breathe again.
7 minA couple of big selection calls made by Lopetegui this evening in recalling Isco in the forward line and Keylor Navas in goal. Los Blancos have been well on the top so far, creating that one early chance for Gareth Bale.
9 minSAVE! Luka Modric with a sublime reverse through-ball for Isco, whose shot from the one-on-one position was blocked by Robin Olsen. Daniele De Rossi then did well to get in front of Gareth Bale’s close-range shot from the follow-up.
11 minThe early signs are pretty ominous from a Roma perspective, as Madrid seem well up for this one – they usually are on European nights! Eleven minutes played and the home side could easily have already had a couple of goals.
13 minGareth Bale wanted one touch too many after being fed by Casemiro from deep, and Robin Olsen was able to pounce. It is all far too easy for Los Blancos at the moment, with Roma offering very little resolve in the final third of the field.
15 minIt could be a long evening for Roma at this rate; they are being pegged back and have yet to really create anything of note. Up the other end, Madrid look dangerous whenever they get bodies forward. With 15 minutes gone, though, it is all square.
17 minRoma’s first opening of the match, as a hopeful punt forward was left by Dani Carvajal for Cengiz Under to pounce on. The Turkish attacker went for a deft lob over Keylor Navas from more than 30 yards out, but he was well off target with his attempt.
19 minCHANCE! Marcelo creates a shooting chance, with Roma too slow to close him down, but he blasts the ball into the stands. An even better chance falls Dani Carvajal’s way – he heads down at the back post and into the side-netting.
21 minStill less than a quarter of the match played and already Madrid have had three presentable opportunities to take the lead. For the third time tonight, Daniele De Rossi gets across to cut out the pass before a home player could pounce.
23 minSHOT! Los Blancos serious knocking on the door now. Roma just cannot clear their lines, getting the ball as far as Toni Kroos, who blasts over the crossbar from a promising position on the edge of the area. The visitors playing a dangerous game.
25 minYELLOW CARD! Madrid centre-back Sergio Ramos is rightly cautioned for catching his men. The home side are still in complete control of the match, but they have managed just one notable shot on target, with Toni Kroos the latest to send one wide.
27 minSHOT! Gareth Bale’s turn to cut inside on his favoured boot and curl one wide of the target. Incredible how much time and space the visiting side are giving their opponents. Lopetegui will be a tad concerned at his side’s profligate nature.
29 minRoma have been given a chance to breathe over the last few minutes, with Madrid taking their foot off the gas a little. Steven N’Zonzi gets a shot away from range, which was never going to trouble Keylor Navas.
31 minGROUP G UPDATE! Michal Krmencik has opened the scoring for Viktoria Plzen in their home match with CSKA Moscow in the other Group G game taking place. Early days, but the side from Czech Republic top the standings.
33 minSergio Ramos is a tad fortunate here, as he clipped the heels of his opponent and got away with just a talking to. Sent off 24 times already in his illustrious career, the Spanish defender perhaps should have been shown a second yellow there.
35 minRoma have actually been the side on top over the past five minutes. The Giallorossi managed to see out the Madrid onslaught and they are now looking to snatch a shock opener, with Federico Fazio nodding wide when picked out in the area.
37 minDani Carvajal is completely dominating his battle with Aleksandar Kolarov down Madrid’s right, but Robin Olsen collected the latest delivery into the box. Less than 10 minutes to go until half time and Los Blancos are back on top here.
39 minGareth Bale with a pretty poor effort from range, sending the ball high into the stands. Again, though, that was far too easy for the home side. Francesco Di Eusebio is furious with his players, urging them to push up the pitch.
41 minSAVE! Marcelo’s cross from the left went right the way through and had to be dealt with by Robin Olsen. It should have been give for offside as Karim Benzema went for the ball. From the corner, Sergio Ramos’s header was tipped over the crossbar.
43 minSAVE! Another good stop from Robin Olsen, getting down to his right to keep out Isco’s low drive. Madrid move through the gears so seamlessly, doing so once again over the past five minutes to see out the first half on a high.
45 minGROUP G UPDATE! Michal Krmencik has a second goal of the night, giving Viktoria Plzen some breathing space against CSKA Moscow. At the Bernabeu, Madrid are toiling and have a free kick late in the first half.
45+1 minGOAL!REAL MADRID 1-0 ROMA (ISCO)
45+2 minIt’s a beauty of a free kick from Isco to give Real Madrid a deserved advantage late in the first half. Daniele De Rossi was penalised for a pull and Isco sent the free kick up and over the wall from 22 yards.
45+3 minHALF TIME: REAL MADRID 1-0 ROMA
8.48pmIsco’s successfully converted free kick late in the first half gives Real Madrid a one-goal lead at the Bernabeu. Los Blancos had created numerous openings prior to the sublime set piece, and now Roma will have to come out of their own half a little more.
8.51pmIn their first Champions League outing since losing manager Zinedine Zidane and star man Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer, Julen Lopetegui made two big calls in recalling Isco in the forward line and Keylor Navas in goal for this match. The early signs were ominous for Roma, who required a big early stop from Robin Olsen to keep out Isco from a one-on-one position, shortly after Gareth Bale had skimmed the outside of the post with his effort.
8.54pmBale sent another couple of shots into the stands, as did Marcelo as Roma continued to give their opponents the freedom of the park. Roma, who had lost on four of their previous five visits to Spain, were somehow holding on as half time approached after Dani Carvajal headed into the side-netting and Olsen pulled off two more saves.
8.57pmSergio Ramos and Isco could not find a way past the Swedish stopper – brought in as a replacement for Alisson Becker over the summer – but the latter curled a delicious free kick into the bottom corner right on the brink of half time. It should have been more, but Los Blancos do at least have an advantage to build on in the second period.
REAL MADRID SUBS: Courtois, Nacho, Mariano, Lucas Vazquez, Llorente, Asensio, Ceballos
ROMA SUBS: Mirante, Cristante, Pellegrini, Perotti, Schick, Marcano, Santon
46 minKICKOFF: We are back under way at the Santiago Bernabeu, where neither manager has made any changes at the break. Roma, second best throughout the first half, will need to improve massively if they are to take anything from this Group G opener.
48 minNo surprise to see Madrid score tonight – they have now done so in 43 successive home European matches here. A second goal is now the aim for Lopetegui’s charges, who will not be able to relax until they find it.
50 minMadrid look so composed when in possession of the ball, as they probe away for that killer second goal. Marco Asensio is an obvious option to come on in the next 10 minutes or so, but he is not exactly needed right now.
52 minSAVE! From absolutely nowhere, Cengiz Under cuts inside Sergio Ramos and blasts the ball on target. Keylor Navas, who has had next to nothing to do all evening, produces a great save to keep his side’s narrow lead intact.
54 minCHANCE! Madrid counter and should have a second. Karim Benzema’s run is spotted by Isco and the Frenchman in turn looked to find Marcelo, but Gareth Bale thought the pass was intended for him and shot wide from an awkward position.
56 minOFF THE BAR! Gareth Bale is on a mission to score tonight, and he came within the width of the crossbar of bagging his goal. A decent effort, which had a little too much on it after taking a deflection. Roma are readying a change – it cannot come soon enough.
58 minSAVE! Lorenzo Pellegrini is on for Nicolo Zaniolo, who has had the toughest of senior debuts. Another chance comes and goes for Madrid, as Luka Modric this time fails to get the better of Robin Olsen when fed inside the opposition box.
59 minGOAL!REAL MADRID 2-0 ROMA (GARETH BALE)
60 minClinical from Gareth Bale to surely put this game to bed – and it is a deserved goal for the Welshman. Luka Modric took three players out the game with his through-ball, allowing his teammate to do the rest by drilling the ball across Olsen.
62 minAt 1-0 Madrid could never be comfortable, but now it will surely be a case of damage limitation for the visitors. They have not turned up tonight, and the biggest positive for Di Francesco is that it is only two goals that his side have conceded.
64 minSUBS! Marco Asensio is on for Karim Benzema in the Madrid forward line, while Diego Perotti comes on for Stephan El Shaarawy for the visitors. The Giallorossi have lacked attacking sport all evening at the Bernabeu.
66 minSAVE! Roma have finally decided to put together some attacking moves. Aleksandar Kolarov has scored a fair few long-range goals down the years, and this latest attempt was not bad, forcing Keylor Navas into a save down low to his left.
68 minTwenty-two minutes left to go in the Spanish capital and, while Roma are seeing a lot more of the ball at the present time, Los Blancos are looking very comfortable. Elsewhere, CSKA have pulled one back against Viktoria Plzen.
70 minMadrid have played some exhibition football at times tonight, but they have certainly taken their foot off the gas since Bale scored his side’s second. Kolarov would have reduced the arrears, if not for a smart save from Navas.
72 minSHOT! Here go Madrid again, moving through the gears. Marco Asensio, on the field for less than 10 minutes, sends a scuffed shot wide of the target. Roma have made their third and final change – Patrik Schick is on for Steven N’Zonzi.
74 minREAL MADRID SUB! Patrick Schick sends the ball over the crossbar after being teed up by Edin Dzeko, who should have released his teammate sooner. Gareth Bale, scorer of the second goal, is replaced by Mariano Diaz.
76 minSAVE! A couple of routine saves from Robin Olsen to keep out Toni Kroos and Sergio Ramos. Madrid have not exactly broken a sweat to score the game’s third goal, but they are looking the more likely to score it at the moment.
78 minMariano perhaps should have gone for goal when the space opened up for him; he instead attempted a reverse pass which did not quite come off. Los Blancos looking so incredibly comfortable at the Bernabeu with 12 minutes left to play here.
78 minSAVE! Almost a brilliant third for Madrid, but Robin Olsen pulled off another fine save. Good turn from Asensio; equally as good a save.
81 minUnder has some space on the right, but his cross is all wrong and the attack comes to a premature end.
84 minSurprised at how little Roma, semi finalists last season, have offered tonight. Six minutes to find a response of some sort.
87 minDani Ceballos comes on for Madrid in place of Modric, who put in another terrific shift tonight. Three minutes for Los Blancos to see through
90 minSAVE! Keylor Navas stays alert right to the end, producing a big stop to keep out Dzeko’s header at the end of a Florenzi cross.
90+2 minGOAL!REAL MADRID 3-0 (MARIANO DIAZ)
90+3 minA brilliant goal to cap a brilliant Madrid display. Mariano Diaz turned his man on the edge of the box and then found the top corner!
90+4 minFULL TIME:REAL MADRID 3-0 ROMA
10.05pmReal Madrid comfortable winners in the end, then, with Isco, Gareth Bale and Mariano Diaz all registering. The scoreline was far from flattering, as Los Blancos were on top throughout and more than lived up to their reputation as competition favourites.
10.07pmThat concludes Sports Mole‘s live text coverage of events from the Santiago Bernabeu. An on-the-whistle report can be found by clicking here, and be sure to join us tomorrow night for updates from a selection of Europa League matches. See you then!