Let's be honest—this matchup is over. Real Madrid won the first leg over Schalke in Germany, 6-1, and were already the superior team on paper. But in case you aren't convinced that Real Madrid's place in the Champions League quarterfinals is secure, here are a few other reasons why this one is over:
- To advance to the quarterfinals, Schalke have to win 6-0. To force extra time, they have to win 6-1. Either way, they need to score six goals. Real Madrid have given up a total of six goals in their last 11 matches across all competitions. In that time, they've scored 28.
- Los Blancos haven't lost in any competition since October 26, a 2-1 defeat against Barcelona. That's 30 matches without a loss.
- Real Madrid have lost just once at home all season, a 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid on September 28.
Convinced now? You should be. But there is still a game to be played, so let's break it down.
When: Tuesday at 3:45 p.m. ET
Tuesday at 7:45 p.m. GMT
Where: Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain
Watch: Fox Soccer Plus; Fox Soccer 2Go; Sky Sports 1 (U.K.); Sky Go (U.K.)
Real Madrid are fresh off a taxing 1-0 victory over Malaga this past weekend, and an El Clasico with huge implications for La Liga's title looms on Sunday. So not surprisingly, manager Carlo Ancelotti will rotate his side a bit on Tuesday.
“We are going to make some changes because we have had a game with a lot of physical effort, we have travelled, and we have not rested much,” [Ancelotti] said. “To allow a good recovery for all the players we will make some changes. There are players who are tired. So will make some changes tomorrow.”
The Italian coach went as far as to say that youngsters Alvaro Morata, Jese Rodriguez and Isco would all be in the starting lineup against the German side, with the latter in particular getting a chance to feature in his new "all-round" midfield role on a big European night.
“Morata, Jese and [Cristiano] Ronaldo are the three who will play up front tomorrow,” Ancelotti said. “Tomorrow 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.”
It's a testament to Ronaldo's competitive fire and fitness that he would play in this game. Few other players of his caliber, days before a huge match against hated rivals Barcelona, would bother to feature in this game. But Ronaldo is cut from a different cloth.
Don't expect Schalke to feature many of their key players. Consider the following, from Raphael Honigstein of The Guardian:
"I hope that nobody will hurt themselves in Madrid and then miss the game against Braunschweig," said the Schalke sporting director Horst Heldt. He wasn't joking. The Royal Blues are not pretending that the trip to the Spanish capital will be anything but a damage limitation exercise following the 6-1 home defeat at the hands of Carlo Ancelotti's side three weeks ago. "We want to depart the Champions League in a sensible manner," said the captain Benedikt Höwedes.
That probably translates into "we'll take a 2-0 win to Madrid." Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, the former Madrid striker, remarkably feels that the game will be an occasion "to enjoy." Maybe he presumes that things will look a little nicer (read: less horrific) from his vantage point, 60 metres ahead of his own defence. Chances are he'll only be on the bench though.
If it were down to Heldt, Huntelaar would probably not be on the plane but stuck on his sofa, both legs vacuum packed in marshmallows.
No, Schalke have no delusions of grandeur when it comes to traveling to Madrid and coming away with an improbable win. But that doesn't mean there aren't reasons to watch.
Any time you have the opportunity to see Ronaldo out on the pitch, you should watch. No player is physically more impressive in the sport, and it's rare that he doesn't amaze with a few streaking runs or rocket-fueled shots on goal.
And this match is also a great chance to watch some young stars in action. For Real Madrid, that's Morata, Isco, Jese and potentially Asier Illarramendi. For Schalke, that means Julian Draxler, the young German starlet Arsenal fans are hoping is plying his trade in London next season.
So yes, there are reasons to watch. For Schalke fans, there just aren't many reasons to hope.
With little to play for, what will motivate either side? How about momentum?
For Schalke, a win—or at least a quality showing—could build momentum for the stretch run in Bundesliga play, as they look to qualify for next year's tournament. For Real Madrid, there is an unbeaten streak to protect and an El Clasico to tune up for.
If nothing else, this one should be relaxed yet entertaining. It's about as close to a midseason club friendly as you'll get. This one ends in a draw, 2-2.
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