CHAMPIONS LEAGUE IS BACK!!!

Well, for Real Madrid that is. The opponents, as declared by a draw, are Bundesliga side Schalke aka “Raul’s team”. The first leg takes place on Wednesday night at the Stadion Gelsenkirchen in Gelsenkirchen.

raul

Schalke currently sit fourth in the Bundesliga with a good run of form winning six and drawing two in their last eight games. On the weekend, the German side drew 0-0 with Mainz. Thanks to Bayern Munich’s demolition, Schalke are 21 points behind the league leaders.

HEAD TO HEAD

The two teams have never met in a European competition game.

Schalke’s record against Spanish teams at a home is mixed having played 11 games, won five, drawn two and lost four. Meanwhile, Real’s record when playing in Germany is absolutely dreadful. In 25 games played in Germany, Madrid have won only once (losing 18 times!). Last year, Madrid got thumped by Dortmund 4-1 in the first leg of the semi-final. The only victory came in 2000/01 when Los Blancos beat Bayer Leverkusen 3-2.

TEAM SPEAK

Schalke scrambled on the final day to make their way into the final 16. The Royal Blues needed a matchday six victory against Basel to ensure progress from Group E.

Real had an easy ride in their Group B campaign winning five and drawing one. The team had scored the most number of goals (20) in the group stages thereby matching the record of Manchester United (1998/99) and FC Barcelona (2011/12). Away from home, The Whites have scored in all 21 games played since losing 1-0 to Lyon in 2009/10 season. Further, since then, Real have lost only four times in an away fixture – three of them in Germany (uh-oh!). Coming into the game, Real have scored in 31 consecutive games in the Champions League.

Madrid are 26 games unbeaten, winning 22, longest run without defeat in Ancelotti’s managerial career.  Additionally, the club have won 15 of the last 16 matches including the 3-0 win on the weekend against Elche.

Surprisingly for Madrid, the goals have been going in on one end but they aren’t being conceded on the other. Merengues kept a club record eight consecutive clean sheets between 6 and 28 January. Club captain Iker Casillas hasn’t conceded a goal in his last nine appearances or in 862 minutes.

INDIVIDUAL SPEAK

Cristiano Ronaldo was the top scorer in the group stages with nine goals – setting a record in the process. He’s scored 28 times in his last 23 matches and overall 59 goals in 97 matches (0.60 goals per game).

Ancelotti’s AC Milan beat Schalke in the 2005/06 group stages – 3-2 (in Milan) and 2-2 (in Gelsenkirchen).

For Schalke, Marco Höger and Roman Neustädter are one booking away from a suspension.

For Madrid, Ramos is available having served a suspension in the final game of the group stage.

PREDICTION

I think we’ll break the jinx of losing in Germany and come back with a win. 2-1.

What is your prediction?

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