Real Madrid fans watched on as the Champions League draw gave them a tough draw, though one that they will be confident that their team should see through with ease. Group G will include AS Roma, CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen alongside the reigning champions as they look to make it four successful European campaigns in a row, though our preview analysis suggests that it may be easier said than done.
Following European Super Cup defeat, Real Madrid have a point to prove and know well that Julen Lopetegui will have some big questions to answer. From whether it is Thibaut Courtois or Keylor Navas in goal to how he lines up in attack, the path ahead is not a clear one for the coach.
With reasons to fear each and every one of Real Madrid’s imminent opponents on the European stage, it may give the former Spain national team boss some sleepless nights.
AS Roma: Victors over Barcelona and semi-finalists
Last year’s heroes for some Madridistas, a historic home win over Barcelona will go down in Roma’s record books and will be long remembered. It will also serve as a warning to Los Blancos, who will be well aware of the threat that they could face.
With so few fixtures involved, not a single slip-up can be permitted and Julen Lopetegui may well have been hoping for an easier start to his Champions League career at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu than a clash with the Italians in mid-September.
After departures for the likes of Alisson Becker and Kevin Strootman amongst others, Roma could be labelled weaker this season. With another raft of Monchi signings having arrived, it may be better to face them early as they continue to gel, but it will be no easy feat to come away from the Italian capital with a win.
CSKA Moscow: A journey from hell
A shallow squad facing a five-hour flight to sub-zero temperatures only three days after a Madrid derby with Atletico is Julen Lopetegui’s worst nightmare. Clubs like Arsenal, Benfica, Monaco and Manchester City have all failed to take points when making the trek eastwards in recent years and Real Madrid will be cautious.
Few doubt that the quality in the squad will be enough, particularly with the likes of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Mariano Diaz up against mediocre defenders from the Russian side. Even with that in mind though, the Russians can grind out a result.
Significantly unusual weather conditions may provide a key factor for the away tie which is, unfortunately for Lopetegui, the second match of the group stage after an equally challenging opener against Roma.
Viktoria Plzen: Form is crucial
You would have to go back to 2012 to find the last time Viktoria Plzen didn’t finish in the top two of their league. Whilst their European form over the same time period isn’t quite as threatening, Spanish sides know well that gaining momentum can be crucial.
If there is one man to look out for it is Michael Krmencik, a 25-year-old striker who has already notched seven goals in just six games this season and will be doing his best to give Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane nightmares.
The Czech champions should represent the easiest fixtures in Europe on the Spanish side’s schedule, particularly given their poor record against teams from Spain in such competitions, but Viktoria Plzen will be about to complete the Madrid double having beaten Atletico Madrid in a group stage fixture of the Europa League in 2012.