Real Madrid's quest for La Décima continues Wednesday as the Spanish league-toppers square off against German side Schalke 04. Schalke is seen as a special club by Madridistas considering its fondness and appreciation for Madrid icon Raúl González Blanco, but make no mistake, Los Blancos travel to Gelsenkirchen with one objective: victory.
Madrid is riding a wave of positive momentum into this Champions League match-up. They surpassed Barcelona and Atlético Madrid on Sunday and currently rank first in La Liga. They defeated Elche 3-0 on Saturday with goals from three new players who've strengthened an already-formidable Madrid side and have allowed Carlo Ancelotti to implement a savvy rotation system while the team tackles three competitions. The Spanish giants have won six of their last seven games in the Champions League and the top scorer in the history of the Champions League group stage- Cristiano Ronaldo- returns to action for his side after serving a three-match league ban that kept him out of action for the past two weeks.
Schalke 04 is coming off a disappointing 0-0 draw to Mainz in the Bundesliga and will look to return to winning ways at home against the boys from Valdebebas. The German side continues to fight the injury bug as Marco Höger, Dennis Aogo, Atsuto Uchida and Christian Clemens remain out of commission for the match. All eyes will be on German wunderkind Julian Draxler and striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar as they seek to create headaches for Madrid's defenders and goalkeeper. According to scouting information from WhoScored, Schalke frequently depends on moments of individual skill from its players to net goals, so Ancelotti's men will need to account for Draxler and Huntelaar at all times to keep them from creating scoring chances.
Carlo Ancelotti revealed in his press conference that the "BBC" will feature from the opening whistle as Gareth Bale seems to have edged out Jesé for the starting position in this clash. As is typical of Carletto's rotation, Iker Casillas will start in goal and Luka Modric will likely partner Xabi Alonso and Di María in midfield after sitting out the Elche game. Carlo Ancelotti has called up 22 players for the encounter:
Goalkeepers: Casillas, Diego López and Jesús.
Defenders: Varane, Pepe, Ramos, Nacho, Marcelo, Coentrão, Carvajal and Arbeloa.
Midfielders: Xabi Alonso, Modric, Casemiro, Di María, Isco and Illarra.
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema, Bale, Morata and Jesé.
While Real Madrid are favorites to win this match, one should never underestimate the capacity of a Champions League side playing on its home turf to pull off an upset. Schalke boasts a fiercely loyal and passionate fanbase that will lift its team and create a fantastic atmosphere that will surely do justice to the spectacle that is the UEFA Champions League.
Real Madrid vs. Schalke will kick-off at 8:45 pm CET/ 2:45 pm EST/ 11:45 am PST