EUROPEAN football fanatic Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) has run the rule over Real Madrid’s trip to Schalke on Wednesday night in the Champions League.
Schalke v Real Madrid | Wednesday 19.45 | Sky Sports 5
I’m really intrigued by this tie, or at least the first leg. When the draw was made, we all rightly presumed it would be a complete walkover for Real Madrid. But football being the short-term game that the media and 21st century supporters like to believe, mean opinions can be crushed within a matter of weeks.
The European champions had won 21 consecutive matches to conclude 2014 and were being talked about as one of the best sides the planet had ever seen. Yes, they were going places but football being football, it was far too premature. Nearly seven weeks into the new calendar year and suddenly Los Blancos are in ‘crisis mode’, apparently.
Whilst their 4-0 spanking at city rivals Atletico recently was an embarrassment for a club that prides itself on being the world’s best, and it’s true too that performances have most certainly dipped in 2015, the boos and whistles for Iker Casillas, Cristiano Ronaldo and coach Carlo Ancelotti seem petty and you guessed it, premature.
Real must improve if they’re to hold onto their Champions League crown but I’m confident that road will continue on the right track on Wednesday night. Madrid came through the group phase with a 100% record and have now W18-D1-L1 of their last 20 European games. And Ancelotti’s charges have also fired in the most shots as well as the highest number of shots-on-target in the 2014/15 competition. See, what crisis?
But the visitors are without a number of star names for their trip to Germany, most notably defensive lynchpin Segio Ramos, midfield mystro Luka Modric, World Cup star James Rodriguez and potentially Pepe. Should the hot-headed Portuguese centre-half miss out again, Real will be pairing Nacho with Raphael Varane in the heart of the defence and that should give the Schalke attack hope.
On Saturday, Madrid were relatively comfortable against Deportivo but they did allow their lowly visitors numerous opportunities to grab a goal. Celso Borges hit the woodwork whilst Isaac Cuenca was a constant menace for Depor. And on the road, Real have struggled to keep the goals out; keeping just one clean sheet in seven away and leaking 15 goals on their travels in La Liga.
Those who point to last season’s meetings at the same stage of the competition between the two teams will be quick to point out Real’s dominance but it’s worth noting that the Royal Blues scored in both legs of their 9-2 aggregate defeat. So whilst I expect Schalke to lose, I do like the idea of the Germans getting a goal. Real Madrid can be snapped up at 39/17 with 888 Sport to win with Both Teams To Score; that’s just below 12/5 in more traditional odds.
Like Real, Schalke do have a lengthy injury list. Julian Draxler, Ralf Fahrmann, Jefferson Farfan, Sead Kolasinac, Leon Goretzka and Chinedu Obasi are all sidelined but Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is available despite serving a domestic ban and should boost Roberto Di Matteo’s attacking options.
We all know exactly how Di Matteo will set his side up to play. Since he’s taken charge in early October, the Royal Blues have tightened up defensively and are most definitely more organised. Three successive home clean sheets means they’ve now shut opponents out in five of their last eight Bundesliga matches at the Veltins Arena with the same number ending in victories.
Despite that progression, the hosts will have third-choice 19-year-old keeper Timon Wellenreuther between the sticks and they did concede 14 goals in their six group games, the highest tally among the 16 qualifiers. It’s hardly encouraging when gearing up to face the triple threat of Cristiano Ronaldo (whatever form he’s in), Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema.
On Saturday Schalke slipped to a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt. They huffed and puffed, created bags of goalscoring chances but failed to take their opportunities thanks to a Man of the Match display from Eintracht stopper Kevin Trapp. They’ll sit back and look to hit Real on the break and having scored in 16/19 home Champions League matches now, I’ll be fuming if they don’t put this makeshift Madrid defence under pressure.
Anyway, the Royal Blues have seen goals at both ends in six of their last eight European games and despite the dour displays we’ve been treated to under Di Matteo’s watch, I’m going to take 888 Sport’s offer on a Real Madrid win with Both Teams To Score. It’s proven a winning selection in six of Los Blancos’ last 10 away victories in the Champions League.
Schalke v Real Madrid – Real Madrid to win and Both Teams To Score (39/17 888 Sport)
Reckon Real could run riot in Germany? Think Mark’s on the right lines with his match preview?
Well if you’ve yet to join Betfair, you’re entitled to an enhanced price of 3/1 on a Real Madrid win on Wednesday night (standard odds 2/5) by following the link below.
New Customer Offer