The defending champions should get their knockout campaign off to a flying start when they travel to Schalke on Wednesday evening.
Real Madrid aren’t having things exactly their own way in Spain’s La Liga this season, however they can put all this behind them when they travel to Northern Germany on Wednesday evening to face FC Schalke in the Veltins Arena.
Indeed, Los Blancos are far from convincing in the Spanish top flight this season although they will almost certainly prove too strong for a Schalke side who are fourth in the Bundesliga table coming into this match.
Real suffered a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of bitter rivals Atletico two weeks ago and sit just a point ahead of Barcelona in La Liga, however before the winter break they managed a 22-match winning run and won the FIFA Club World Cup. Things have taken a downturn since then and they will be desperate to return to top form in this midweek clash.
In last season’s Champions League, Real won their group in stunning fashion with six wins from six, fourteen goals scored and just three in reply. Indeed, Basel were some nine points behind them in second place at the finish of the group campaign.
Schalke will nevertheless provide tough opposition in this opening knockout match. Ex Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo took charge at the Bundesliga club late last year with the side sitting in the bottom half of the table, however he has steered them to the top four and the Champions League knockout stages.
Indeed, he has proven himself to be an excellent manager and his side will be a force to be reckoned with on Wednesday. Scahlke held giants Bayern to a 1-1 draw at the Allianz and followed that with an unfortunate defeat against Frankfurt and they are now behind Bayern, Wolfsburg and Monchengladbach in the league.
Nevertheless, this is a great chance for Schalke to bloody Real’s noses, although they will still be mindful of the 9-2 aggregate defeat that they suffered at the hands of the same opponents at this same stage of last year’s competition.
To be honest, despite the fact that Schalke will be in high spirits and at home, Real will be too much of a handful for the Germans to contend with and we expect the Spanish giants to rediscover something of their pre winter-break form.
Our betting tips
Real Madrid win, both teams scoring – 888sport 37/19
Anytime Goalscorer, Karim Benzema – 888sport 23/18