In 48 hours, Zinedine Zidane faces his most onerous task to date: Infiltrate the Italian capital to leave with a victory.
Real Madrid is set to battle Roma in the first-leg of their Round of 16 matchup in the Champions League. While Zidane has led Los Blancos to a handful of wins in La Liga since his appointment, Roma is a different animal. While Zidane's tactical decisions will be key, he'll also need a few of his highly touted players to step up and deliver in the spotlight.
Without further ado, here's our three keys to midweek success against Roma:
Cristiano Ronaldo must step up
There's no doubt that the Portuguese man is one of the best players in the world, if not the best. However, in Real Madrid's monumental games this season, he's disappeared. In four matches this season against Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid, he's scored zero goals.
Yes, zero goals and Real Madrid only claimed victory against PSG at the Santiago Bernabéu.
His run-of-form against Europe's top teams has been disappointing, but there's no point in dwelling on the past now. Wednesday evening, Cristiano will be without Gareth Bale, therefore it'll be his sole responsibility to step up and produce in the goals and / or assists department away from the Spanish capital. He played incredibly well days ago against Athletic and his confidence should be riding high (as if it isn't always). Madridistas should expect their No. 7 to gallop towards the corner flag and erupt in front of the traveling supporters at some point during the 90 minutes.
How will Zidane utilize Marcelo?
The Brazilian defender is back, or appears to be back after injuring his shoulder just a week ago. Obviously, Marcelo wants to feature in the matchup with Roma but Zidane has a difficult decision to make.
While Marcelo was named to Real Madrid's squad list, it could mean that they've rushed him back. Now, obviously against Roma, any manager wants their world-class left back available at his disposal. However, should Zidane play him? Remember, the Brazilian is the only natural left back in the team and if he suffers a setback, his back line could experience even more shuffling going forward.
Marcelo's played terrific, there's no doubt about it, but Dani Carvajal also played well on the left side against Athletic. Is it worth rushing Marcelo back into the fold?
Safe hands between the sticks
Roma is by no means as much of an offensive power as Real Madrid, but they can still produce quality opportunities. The question is, just how many chances will the Italian side create Wednesday and how many will Keylor Navas deny? Based on recent form, bets should be on Navas as he's played well of late despite a shaky defense.
Real Madrid's main objective will obviously be to score as many away goals as possible en route to victory but the importance of a clean sheet shouldn't be understated. If Real Madrid hold Roma scoreless, it'll only deflate their confidence as they'll then face the difficult task of scoring in front of a packed Santiago Bernabéu. Also, it'll take the weight off Sergio Ramos and company's shoulders. If the back four record a clean sheet on the road, there's no reason they can't do it back at home.