Two goals each from Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema left the Bundesliga side needing a minor miracle if they want to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League against the Spanish league leaders.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s late volley in Jens Keller’s mens’ 6-1 defeat—however good it was—is unlikely to carry any weight.
Given the nature of their lead, Carlo Ancelotti admitted in his pre-match press conference that he will "make some changes because [Madrid] have had a game [against Malaga] with a lot of physical effort and have not rested much" (h/t ESPN).
Benzema picked up a knock in the 1-0 win over Malaga at the weekend, meaning he definitely won’t feature in Europe, although Ancelotti said he is “confident of a recovery” in time for the Clasico against Barcelona this coming Sunday.
The Italian coach also confirmed Bale wouldn’t start against Schalke, making way for two fresh faces to partner Ronaldo in Madrid’s front three, while also insisting Isco has to adjust to a deeper role:
Alvaro Morata, Jese Rodriguez and Ronaldo are the three who will play up front on Tuesday night. Isco will play [in midfield]. He has to get used to this position, which is a bit different, above all with defensive aspects. But both he and I are confident that he can play in that position.
Isco started in that deeper position against Malaga on Saturday, but reverted to a false nine when Benzema departed injured, with Angel di Maria coming on in midfield.
Asier Illarramendi and Luka Modric are likely to be the two men who line up in the centre of the park alongside the 21-year-old.
Ancelotti could also make some changes in defence.
Sergio Ramos—who missed the weekend’s win in Andalucia through suspension—could return in the middle of the back four, with either Pepe or Raphael Varane then going on to take a well-deserved rest.
With Alvaro Arbeloa joining Sami Khedira on the treatment table, there could also be an opportunity for Nacho Fernandez to play some more minutes. Fabio Coentrao could also come into the side, with Marcelo and Dani Carvajal missing out.
In goal, as with every Champions League game so far this season, Iker Casillas will replace Diego Lopez.
Despite the changes and their huge lead, Los Blancos will still be keen to avoid defeat against Keller’s side.
Ancelotti’s men are now 30 matches unbeaten in all competitions—dating back to when they lost the first El Clasico of this season in October—and will not want that run to be broken before this weekend’s big match.
Madrid’s longest ever unbeaten run is 34 matches, which was set when Leo Beenhakker was manager during the 1988-89 season.
A win against Schalke, followed by a positive result against Barca will leave them just two games short of that streak.
Predicted Real Madrid XI: Iker Casillas; Nacho Fernandez, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Fabio Coentrao; Luka Modric, Asier Illarramendi, Isco; Jese Rodriguez, Alvaro Morata, Cristiano Ronaldo.