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UEFA Champions League Preview: Schalke v Real Madrid

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 24 Feb 2014

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Real Madrid can arrest their poor record in Germany and take a big step towards the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals by beating Schalke.

The sides meet in the last 16 of Europe’s premier club competition on Wednesday, with Real having won just once in 25 attempts on their previous visits to German opposition

Real’s solitary away victory over a German side came against Bayer Leverkusen in 2000.

However, Carlo Ancelotti’s in-form side should be high on confidence going into their first-leg clash at the Veltins Arena, having moved three points clear at the top of La Liga over the weekend.

Ancelotti’s charges have won 15 of their last 16 in all competitions, conceding just twice in their last five outings, and were also the leading scorers in the Champions League group stages.

With Cristiano Ronaldo providing nine goals, a record for the group stage, Real found the net 20 times when dominating a pool that also featured fellow qualifiers Galatasaray, Juventus and Copenhagen.

Ronaldo has missed Real’s last three league games through suspension but can be expected to return in Gelsenkirchen, with Ancelotti, who tasted victory over Schalke with Milan in the 2005-06 Champions League, stating his intention to field a full-strength line-up.

“Before we play Schalke we’ll have to see how (recent injury victims) Marcelo and (Fabio) Coentrao are,” the Italian explained.

“We will play the strongest possible team. Now all the matches are extremely important. It might be a case of whoever doesn’t play on Wednesday will play on Sunday (against Atletico Madrid).”

Schalke have displayed similarly impressive domestic form recently, enjoying a 100 per cent record since the Bundesliga’s winter break up until Friday’s goalless draw with Mainz.

While that stalemate ended their winning run, Schalke remain in the Bundesliga’s top four and have been boosted by the return of Julian Draxler following an ankle injury.

Draxler could line up alongside the likes of Kevin-Prince Boateng, Max Meyer and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, with the latter set to feature against his former club.

The Netherlands international expects his side to ask questions of Real Madrid’s defence.

“I think our best weapon is our attacking play. We can score a goal at any point during the match and we are always a threat up front,” Huntelaar told Marca.

“You know that Germany tends to be a nightmare for Real Madrid. It’s a good sign but we will see what happens. After all, this is football.”

While Real have a poor record on German soil, Schalke will be well aware of the need to secure a positive result on Wednesday, having not won any of their last seven games in Spain.

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