Champions League offers Real Madrid welcome distraction from La Liga troubles
Madrid, March 9 (IANS) Real Madrid have the chance to put a turbulent 10 days behind them when they entertain German football Schalke 04 in the return leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Tuesday night.
Real are clear favourites to progress into the quarterfinals following their 2-0 win in Germany three weeks ago. That leaves Schalke with a mountain to climb in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, reports Xinhua.
Schalke coach Roberto Di Matteo has already admitted his side needs "to produce a perfect display," in order to have any chance of qualifying. However, this could be the best moment of the season to face Real, who are reeling in the Spanish La Liga after taking just one point from their last two matches.
Those results have seen Carlo Ancelotti's side lose the league leadership to bitter rivals FC Barcelona and although there is still a long way to go, the feeling is that there is something not quite right in the Real camp.
Ancelotti's side seems to lack the freshness that they showed in the first half of the season with strikers Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema all below par.
In Ronaldo's case, it could be down to his long-running knee problem, while Bale looks to have been affected by criticism which said he was too greedy in front of goal. Meanwhile in an interview, Benzema implied he was unhappy to be the first person to be singled out for criticism by the fans when things don't work out.
While the strikers have seen their form dip, Ancelotti's main problem is probably in midfield. Injuries to James Rodriguez and Luka Modric, coupled with a lack of confidence in Sami Khedira and Asier Illaramendi, means that Tony Kroos has not had a rest all season and is starting to look tired. Isco also looks as if he needs a break.
Modric will be back soon and could even get some minutes on Tuesday. It would be a good idea as it would not only give him some much-needed game time, but also raise the atmosphere in a Bernabeu Stadium where nerves have just started to make an appearance.