MADRID (Reuters) - Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos is aware that his side will need to improve on their performance against AS Roma on Tuesday if they are to mount a serious Champions League bid after the Italians squandered several opportunities.
Second half goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and James Rodriguez earned Madrid a 2-0 win at the Bernabeu and a 4-0 aggregate victory in the Round of 16 tie, yet there were plenty of signs that Zinedine Zidane's men are far from the finished article.
Bosnia international Edin Dzeko could have put Roma ahead on 14 minutes when he received the ball in space from fellow forward Mohamed Salah, but could only hit the side netting.
Egyptian forward Salah also missed the target at the near post in either half, while Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas had to intervene to prevent captain Alessandro Florenzi, Greek defender Kostas Manolas and Argentine forward Diego Perotti from scoring.
"Roma made things hard for us, they had dangerous chances, but after that we played well," Ramos was quoted as saying by the Marca newspaper on Wednesday.
"It's obvious that the margin for error in the Champions League is minimum and this should make us reflect. We have to learn from these situations because the Champions League is our last throw of the dice."
Already 12 points adrift of runaway leaders Barcelona in La Liga, winning an 11th European title is the only thing Madrid have left to target in a chaotic season which has already seen Rafael Benitez sacked as coach and replaced by Zidane.
Madrid suffered an embarrassing elimination from the Copa del Rey for fielding an ineligible player and were handed galling league losses by rivals Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.
Luis Enrique's all-conquering outfit humiliated Madrid 4-0 at the Bernabeu back in November but Ramos said he would be happy to be paired with Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals should the Catalans overcome Arsenal.
Barcelona are strong favourites to advance after they won the first leg of that tie 2-0 in London.
"Of course we wouldn't mind, you have to beat the best teams, it doesn't matter when you meet them," he added.
Madrid, however, must quickly learn how to plug the holes that were on display against Roma, because whoever they meet in the last eight next month are unlikely to pass up the gifts Dzeko and Salah squandered.
Editing by John O'Brien