It was a long night in Germany as Schalke hosted Champions League rivals Real Madrid. The Spaniards entered the Veltins Arena on a mission, and they left with a stunning 6-1 victory in hand.
Braces from Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema capped off what was a stunning night for the visitors, while Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was able to find a late consolation goal for the Germans.
In the end, the pure quality of Real Madrid was just too much for Schalke, who look to be making their Champions League exit. Los Blancos will have six away goals to their name as the second leg will be played at the Santiago Bernabeu, meaning this tie may already be over.
In this article, we will take a look at six things we learned from Real Madrid's massive victory and discuss what they mean for both sides. The Spaniards are almost in the next round, but is their eye already set on the final?
*All statistics are courtesy of WhoScored.com.
Pundits spend a lot of time analyzing and criticizing managers for the mistakes they make, but they never seem to take the time to praise the men on the sideline when things go smoothly.
Well, Carlo Ancelotti deserves all of the praise in the world right now.
The Italian boss has Real Madrid firing on all cylinders and performing at such a high level both domestically and abroad. However, he hasn't only gotten the best out of Los Blancos, it also appears as though he has gotten rid of all the problems as well.
The 6-1 thumping of Schalke perfectly showed what Ancelotti has done for the club. He has changed the tactics to get the best out of his forwards, find the right balance in the midfield and given the defensive much more stability.
At the same time, his choices before and during the game deserve praise as well.
Ancelotti fielded the perfect lineup at the start of the match and made wise decisions as it progressed. Bringing on Illarramendi and Isco made a lot of sense, and he capped it all off by giving Jese a Champions League run out on his birthday.
All in all, this Real Madrid success comes back to Ancelotti. He has found the secret formula, the answer to the problems, and the club is benefiting from it in an incredible way.
In this round of Champions League action, the four German teams managed to score seven goals while conceding 12. They may have gone 2-2 in the matches they played, but for the most part, it was a questionable display from the Bundesliga representatives.
It is important to note that the likes of Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen did play league leaders Real Madrid and PSG, respectively, but their performances were still disappointing at best.
The struggles of the German clubs in Europe, and the fact that Bayern Munich are 19 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga table, may be cause for concern.
To be honest, no one was expecting Bayer Leverkusen of Schalke to win their matches. But for two of German's best clubs to be defeated by a combined score of 10-1 is eye-popping.
What really is going on in Germany? Only a few years ago the Bundesliga was being pointed to as the most successful and competitive league in Europe, yet now there is only one team fighting for the title.
Bayern Munich's success cannot be to blame, as the other clubs must take responsibility for their own situations. This may just be a temporary trend for German football, but if not, is there reason to start worrying about the state of the Bundesliga?
When Real Madrid made Bale the most expensive player in the history of football, this is exactly what they had in mind. After a time of transition at the Spanish club, the true Bale is here and well.
Against Schalke, Bale managed to give on assist and find the back of the net twice, with his first goal being an absolute stunner. He also won five dribbles while completing nearly 80 percent of his passes.
This was really the first time that fans have been able to see the real Bale playing for Real Madrid in the Champions League. He had moments of brilliance, linked up well with his teammates and played with incredible confidence.
It is always going to be hard to justify the type of money that Real Madrid paid for Bale, but with his recent performances, it is also difficult to say that he hasn't warranted the purchase.
Bale will continue to grow and adapt as he becomes an even better player for Real Madrid. He hasn't hit his best form yet, but truly this display shows why the club bought him and why he wanted to join Real Madrid in the first place.
Schalke's biggest hope in this match was their ability to attack and score goals. The likes of Julian Draxler, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Max Meyer and Jefferson Farfan have the ability to make things really difficult for opponents, but that wasn't the case Wednesday night.
Yes, the Germans were able to create a few promising chances and Huntelaar did manage to score a late consolation goal, but for the most part, their attack was completely nullified by Real Madrid.
Schalke are currently in a deep battle for the second spot in the Bundesliga table, but that isn't the same side we saw against Real Madrid. The defense and midfield made far too many errors, and the forwards were often timid.
One has to understand that playing against Real Madrid is always going to limit your chances to go forward and test the keeper. Yet, for Schalke to have only managed to put four shots on target is an obvious problem.
The best chance for Schalke in this match was their ability to attack, but the forwards did not show up against Real Madrid and they paid the price for it.
Real Madrid are not just playing well at the moment. They aren't just good or great. This Real Madrid side is nothing short of scary at the moment.
Since 2014 began, Real Madrid have been on a hot streak. Scratch that, they have been burning up. Los Blancos have managed to score 39 goals in the New Year, while conceding just four times counting Schalke's late strike.
As mentioned earlier, they are firing on all cylinders. The defense has finally figured out their problems as Sergio Ramos and Pepe are forming a wall in front of the keeper, while Dani Carvajal, Marcelo and others are performing well at the back.
In the midfield, Luka Modric and Xabi Alonso have begun to form one of the best pairs in Europe. Modric provides the magic, while Alonso works behind the scenes to make sure everything else is taken care of.
At the front is where the real magic happens. The likes of Ronaldo, Bale, Jese, Isco and Benzema have been combining beautifully to score goal after goal, and there just seems to be no way to stop them.
In the drumming of Schalke we got to see just how good Real Madrid really are. They were in complete control of the game, and honestly, they could have scored twice as many goals as they actually did.
As I said, Real Madrid are scary good. But the most scary things about them is the fact that they haven't even peaked yet.
I'm sure everyone would agree with this. Winning 6-1 on the road in a Champions League match basically seals passage to the next round, and that is exactly what it means for Real Madrid.
Schalke will soon be making the trek to the Santiago Bernabeu in the return leg, and it is safe to say they won't get the result they need. The Bernabeu has been a fortress for Los Blancos all year, and there is no way they will allow this lead to be overturned.
Anything can happen in football; we have all seen our fair share of miracles. But Schalke advancing to the next round just isn't going to happen.
But Real Madrid's passage to the next round is not the real topic of this result. In truth, the biggest question mark over this performance is whether or not Los Blancos can win La Decima this season.
This is certainly the best Real Madrid side that Europe has seen for quite some time. If ever there was a team to finally lift the coveted La Decima, it is this team. The wait may finally be over for Madridistas; the road to the final is being paved with goals.
What did you take away from Real Madrid's massive victory? Can Los Blancos win La Decima this season?Leave your thoughts and comments below!