Roberto Di Matteo made Champions League history at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but won’t add Real Madrid to his list…
Real Madrid v Schalke
Live on ITV
Carlo Ancelotti may have ended Real Madrid’s 12-year wait for a tenth reign as European champions, but gratitude has a short expiration date at the Bernabeu and the charismatic Italian has been reminded this month how easy it is to get on the wrong side of those supporters.
His substitutions were jeered in a 1-1 home draw with Villarreal which was followed by a 1-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao to turn their four-point lead over Barcelona into a one-point deficit. Subsequently, this is the first time since November 1 that they have been behind in the title race.
Of course, they messed up La Liga last season only to redeem themselves in the Champions League and their continental prospects are promising again. They are 2-0 up in this round-of-16 tie and are assessed 4.1n/a joint-favourites for the trophy.
The second leg is expected to come too soon for recent absentees Sergio Ramos and James Rodriguez though.
What could be worse than heading to the Bernabeu already trailing the holders 2-0 on aggregate? How about doing so with at least five and potentially as many as nine of your players unavailable?
Among others, Kevin-Prince Boateng is suspended, Julian Draxler and Jefferson Farfan remain sidelined with long-term injuries, goalkeeper Ralf Fahrmann is out with deputy Fabian Giefer a doubt and Champions League ever-present Dennis Aogo’s participation is uncertain.
Of those, the situation between the sticks is perhaps the least troubling, with most in agreement that 19-year-old Timon Wellenreuther, who began the campaign as fourth choice, has made the most of his unlikely opportunity. The teenager made a few decent saves in the first leg.
Match Odds: Real Madrid 1.241/4, Schalke 15.5n/a, The Draw 7.413/2
Roberto Di Matteo can point to having eliminated Barcelona at Camp Nou and Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in guiding Chelsea to Champions League euphoria in 2011/12, but that is the sole straw that Schalke have to cling to on this trip to the Spanish capital.
Real Madrid have won 11 successive Champions League home games, including all nine under Ancelotti, whereas Schalke lost this same fixture 3-1 last term and their one European road win in six came at Maribor.
Real Madrid Win to Nil
Real Madrid have a flawless seven-from-seven winning record in the 2014/15 Champions League and the most recent five of those victories were all achieved without conceding. Similarly, they have been breached just once across their past five outings as hosts in the competition.
Schalke were beaten without reply in their last two domestic away dates courtesy of mid-table Frankfurt and Borussia Dortmund and have been averaging less than a goal per match since returning from the winter break.
Half Time/Full Time
As mentioned above, Schalke have lost two in a row on their travels, yet they were level at the interval in both encounters, as they have in fact been in each of their previous five games outside of the Veltins-Arena.
They also held on for a 1-1 half-time draw at Real Madrid last March before Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata condemned them to a 3-1 defeat in the second half.
Ancelotti’s men haven’t scored a first-half goal in any of their three matches since the first leg, waiting until the 52nd and 56th minutes for the breakthrough in two of those and firing a blank in the other.
Best Bet: Back Real Madrid to win to nil @ 2.021/1
Other Recommended Bet: Back Draw/Real Madrid @ 4.67/2