Schalke v Real Madrid: Champions League match preview
A look ahead to Wednesday's last-16 first leg clash at the Veltins-Arena
Wednesday 26 February 2014
Real Madrid have not found scoring particularly difficult this season. In fact, winning hasn't been too problematic either. They have netted 15 goals in their last five matches, and are 27 games unbeaten; 23 of those wins, in a remarkable run leading back to mid-October.
Cristiano Ronaldo remains the main man in Madrid, and made Champions League history with nine goals in the group stage of the competition. Along with Bale, Benzema and co., Madrid remain a force to be reckoned with and have extended a three-point gap over fellow front-runners Barcelona in La Liga, after the latter lost out to Real Sociedad at the weekend.
On top of that, Los Blancos are in the final of the Copa Del Rey, where they will face Barcelona in April; the possibility of Carlo Ancelotti's men winning the treble is still very much alive.
On Wednesday night, they travel to Schalke for the first ever meeting between the two sides. The German outfit struggled in the first half of the season, but have found form and are unbeaten in their last eight; six wins and two draws. They sit fourth in the Bundesliga, but are just one point behind Borussia Dortmund and an automatic Champions League spot.
Julian Draxler has been heavily linked with a move to Arsenal, and Schalke managing director Horst Heldt confirmed this week that a bid was rejected for the midfielder in the January transfer window. That said, he remains a Schalke player and after returning from injury should be fit to line up against a Madrid side including old Arsenal enemy Gareth Bale.
Knee injuries appear to have plagued both sides, with Sami Khedira (Madrid), Dennis Aogo and Marco Höger (both Schalke) all out with the same ailment. Christian Clemens, Benedikt Höwedes and Atsuto Uchida are all doubtful for the German side with thigh injuries, but other than that both teams are ready to fight for their place in the quarter-finals of the competition.
Schalke have reached the knock-out stages of the Champions League for the second successive season – the first time they have achieved this feat. They came through Group E in second, behind Chelsea; a win against Basel in their final game secured their place in the next round.
Madrid found it altogether easier booking their place in the Round of 16, winning all but one of their six games to this point. A draw away at Juventus was their only blot on a near-perfect campaign so far, and they will be overwhelming favourites to continue their remarkable season with a win in Germany on Wednesday night.
KICK-OFF: Wednesday, 7.45pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS:
Wednesday night's match will be the first time the two sides have faced each other.
Real Madrid have played 52 European games against ten different German opponents, but they have never met Schalke.
Madrid have won just once in 25 previous visits to German opposition, losing 18 times. The most recent of those was a 4-1 loss at Borussia Dortmund in last season's semi-final first leg.
Madrid are seeking a tenth European Cup, but have fallen at the semi-final stage in the last three campaigns. They will hope that coach Carlo Ancelotti – a four-time winner as player and coach - will change that this season.
Schalke's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored eight goals in 20 La Liga games for Madrid in 2009.
Schalke to win: 8.0
Madrid to win: 1.5
Live coverage on Sky 1/Sky Sports 4, Wednesday 7.45pm.
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