The Champions League is back and the holders are in action some 115 days on from the night when everyone associated with Real Madrid revelled in the Decimotercera triumph in Kiev.
The challenge is now all the more ambitious, with the Whites out to clinch glory in Europe’s elite club competition for a fourth year in a row, a feat which is yet to have been achieved under the competition’s current format.
The team’s first group-stage opponents are Roma, tonight 20:00 GMT.
The Champions League anthem is tonight set to ring around the Santiago Bernabéu ahead of an encounter that represents the first step on a journey that leads to the competition’s showpiece, which is to be played on 1 June 2019 at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Real Madrid head into the game intent on extending an 11-season run that has seen them prevail in their opening game in the continent’s leading club competition (eight home wins and three away triumphs), a sequence that began back in the 2007/08 campaign with a 2-1 victory over Werder Bremen.
“We embark on our Champions League campaign with great excitement and ambition”, declared Julen Lopetegui in his pre-match press conference.
The statistics certainly weigh in Madrid’s favour. The Whites haven’t tasted defeat in a home group-stage encounter in nine years, since October 2009.
The team’s record in this period reads 22 wins and thre goalscoring exploits at the Bernabéu also evidences the team’s clinical streak. Indeed, the madridistas have found the net in each of their last 42 games in Europe’s elite club competition, a run stretching back to April 2011.
It’s a new-look Roma side that travel to the Bernabéu . The Italians reached the semi-finals last season, whilst Real Madrid ran out 2-1 winners in the sides’ International Champions Cup meeting this summer.
The departures of Nainggolan, Strootman and Alisson have been made up for with the arrivals of players of the pedigree of Pastore, N’Zonzi, Kluivert and Olsen, although the former is set to miss out through injury.
Roma opened their league campaign with a 1-0 away victory over Torino but have failed to emerge victorious in their following three outings.
They played out a 3-3 draw at home to Atalanta, slipped to a 2-1 defeat at AC Milan and were last weekend surprisingly held to rock-bottom Chievo in a 2-2 stalemate at the Estadio Olímpico.