Champions League: Who should Real Madrid start against AS Roma?

BILBAO, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 15: Thibaut Courtois of Real Madrid CF, Sergio Ramos Garcia of Real Madrid CF, Toni Kroos of Real Madrid CF, Raphael Varane of Real Madrid CF, Marco Asensio of Real Madrid CF, Karim Benzema of Real Madrid CF, Gareth Bale of Real Madrid CF, Marcelo Vieira da Silva Junior of Real Madrid CF, Daniel Carvajal Ramos of Real Madrid CF, Dani Ceballos Fernandez of Real Madrid CF, Luka Modric of Real Madrid CF during the La Liga Santander match between Athletic de Bilbao v Real Madrid at the Estadio San Mames on September 15, 2018 in Bilbao Spain (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
BILBAO, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 15: Thibaut Courtois of Real Madrid CF, Sergio Ramos Garcia of Real Madrid CF, Toni Kroos of Real Madrid CF, Raphael Varane of Real Madrid CF, Marco Asensio of Real Madrid CF, Karim Benzema of Real Madrid CF, Gareth Bale of Real Madrid CF, Marcelo Vieira da Silva Junior of Real Madrid CF, Daniel Carvajal Ramos of Real Madrid CF, Dani Ceballos Fernandez of Real Madrid CF, Luka Modric of Real Madrid CF during the La Liga Santander match between Athletic de Bilbao v Real Madrid at the Estadio San Mames on September 15, 2018 in Bilbao Spain (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid will begin their Champions League title defense Wednesday night in the Santiago Bernabéu as they host AS Roma. Here is what the starting XI for Julen Lopetegui should look like for this group stage match.

Those European weeknights are back folks! Los Blancos will look to make it five UCL titles in the last six years while struggling Roma looks to shock the footballing world.

Despite starting the Serie A campaign off 1-2-1, this is not a side to be taken lightly. With the likes of Eden Dzeko, Alessandro Florenzi, and Javier Pastore all set to start, the Real Madrid boss will need to think long and hard about what he wants his team to look like for many reasons.

The skill of the visitors will surely weigh heavily on the Spaniard’s mind, but there are external factors that could sway his decisions. Namely, Real will play three matches in the span of just seven days.

So, who will the new boss put out on the pitch for kickoff? Here is what to expect.

Goalkeeper

Of all the positions, this is probably the toughest to predict. We have now seen two La Liga matches with Keylor Navas between the posts and two with Thibaut Courtois. Navas allowed one goal in two wins while Courtois allowed two goals in a win and a draw.

Based off of last season and what Lopetegui has shown us to this point, I’m expecting to see Keylor in goal.

The Costa Rican keeper won the UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year award for his work in 2017/2018 and has proven in the past three seasons that he is the guy who can make big-time saves in big matches.

It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see the two world-class net-minders switch off matches in the Champions League, but Navas is the man for the first group stage tie.

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Defense

This area of the pitch is a given. Dani CarvajalRaphael VaraneSergio Ramos, and Marcelo should all starters like they normally do for these important matches.

All four played started and played the entire 90 minutes in Bilbao on Saturday, but that shouldn’t create too much fuss with the fans or the coaches. Although three of the four (Carvajal, Varane, and Ramos) went on international duty at the beginning of the month, they have shown time and again that they have the stamina needed to compete at the top level every match.

If these four start and play for the majority of the match, Lopetegui will most likely look to NachoÁlvaro Odriozola, or possibly Jesús Vallejo to fill in against Espanyol this weekend.

Midfield

Once again, everyone in the world knows who will start in the crucial midfield. Real Madrid – as a club, regardless of the manager – has relied heavily on Luka ModricCasemiro, and Toni Kroos to be the engine in the formation.

These three not only track back on defense, but also help to build up the attack. Against Roma in the preseason, Kroos was the only one of the three to play as his counterparts sat out the first three preseason matches.

Expect the trio to be raring to go come kickoff Wednesday.

Attack

We already know who two of the guaranteed starters for this match will be on the forward line. Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema have quickly wooed their new boss and have both featured in every match that Lopetegui has coached thus far.

The one area that is up for grabs is the left wing. Marco Asensio has played the majority of the time at this position and has started all four league games thus far. But, I think Isco will get the nod in this match.

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His ability to move freely around the pitch creates a nightmare for the opposing defenders. His vision and dribbling skills are simply unmatched, making him the better choice against Roma.

Plus, Asensio has been incredibly busy for both club and country in the last few weeks. Why not give him a night off?

While this is an important match, it is one of six group stages matches so, to say this is a must win would be a stretch.

Stay tuned to The Real Champs for more great Real Madrid coverage!