|After a dismal
start in the league, humiliation in Europe, the premature departure of their
coaches and the failure of leading players to perform, AS Roma and Real Madrid
now face each other in the Champions League.
Two of Europe's biggest clubs appear to have embarked on a path to
self-destruction, but they will have no choice but to put their troubles behind
them when they meet in the bottom of the table Group B clash at the Bernabeu on
Real have been caught up in a spiral of decline since they imploded so
spectacularly in the second half of last season, ending a trophyless campaign
with an unprecedented five-match losing streak.
A 45 million-euro spending spree on two new centre-backs to shore up their leaky
defence, the employment of a new hardline coach to instil some discipline into
the recalcitrant playing staff and the signing of new Galactico Michael Owen
have failed to halt the decline.
For all the talk of their embarrassment of riches up front, Real have only
managed to score four goals in five matches, their worst start to the league in
20 years, and did not even manage to force a single corner in their 2-1 defeat
at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.
But new coach Mariano Garcia Remon, who took charge last week, believes his
players will be able to turn the situation around.
"People have been confusing poor play with a poor attitude," he told Telemadrid
on Sunday. "The players have a great attitude and are really keen to do well,
it's just that they are just rushing things at the moment."
Garcia Remon will be relieved that French midfielder Zinedine Zidane has made a
quicker than expected recovery after dislocating a shoulder during their
crushing 3-0 defeat against Bayer Leverkusen and should bring some much-needed
creative flair to the midfield.
David Beckham, whose poor performance against Bilbao was put down to the fact
that he has been suffering from a viral infection, should also play but fellow
England international Michael Owen is almost certain to start on the bench.
If anything opponents Roma are in even greater turmoil than their rivals.
In a carbon copy of Camacho's departure from Real, former Germany coach Rudi
Voeller quit the club less than a month after taking charge, claiming that he
too was unable to imprint his philosophy on the team.
Former assistant Ezio Sella, who will almost certainly sit on the bench at the
Bernabeu, will be the fourth coach at the club in four chaotic months at the
Serie A club.
Like Real, Roma made a humiliating start in Europe, losing their opening match
when Dynamo Kiev were awarded a 3-0 win after the game was abandoned when the
referee was hit by an object thrown from the crowd in Rome.
In the league they have fared even worse, losing 4-3 to promoted Messina,
drawing 2-2 to unfancied Lecce and losing 3-1 to nine-man Bologna to take just
four points from their first four games.
Leading players Francesco Totti and Antonio Cassano have been in poor form and
Voeller has hinted that the many of the players were simply ignoring his
The parallels between the two clubs are endless, but as they look to revive
their chances in Champions League one thing that both sides will want to avoid
will be a draw.
Real: 1-Iker Casillas; 2-Michel Salgado, 19-Walter Samuel, 6-Ivan Helguera,
3-Roberto Carlos; 10-Luis Figo, 23-David Beckham or 14-Guti, 20-Albert Celades,
5-Zinedine Zidane; 7-Raul, 9-Ronaldo
Roma: 22-Ivan Pelizzoli; 2-Christian Panucci, 8-Matteo Ferrari, 31-Traianos
Dellas, 32-Vincent Candela; 30-Mancini, 4-Daniele De Rossi, 20-Simone Perrotta,
15-Olivier Dacourt; 10-Francesco Totti, 18-Antonio Cassano
Referee: Valentin Ivanov (Russia)