By ADAM TROXTELL
Last year when Schalke and Real Madrid met in the Round of 16, the German side wasn’t run by a UEFA Champions League winner. The Royal Blues are now, and they’re hoping that can help push them over the top.
All of Roberto Di Matteo’s experience of winning the competition with Chelsea and some will be needed when Schalke hosts Real Madrid on Wednesday (2:45 p.m., Fox Sports 1). The Gelsenkirchen side was embarrassed, 9-2 ,on aggregate by Real at this stage of the competition last year, and Los Blancos have added to their attacking firepower since then.
Real Madrid enters this game after an uninspiring 2-0 win against Deportivo La Coruna, and Cristiano Ronaldo remains out of form by his standards. The current Balon d’Or winner has not scored in four outings.
With Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and a host of other attackers, that may not bother the Spanish team too much. Schalke, on the other hand, is holding out hope that Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will be at his best after recovering from a virus that kept him out for a week.
Due to other injuries, Schalke will have to rely on 19-year-old Timo Wellenreuther in goal to keep Real Madrid from grabbing its 10th consecutive Champions League win.
In the other Champions League match on Wednesday, FC Basel continues its tournament dream by hosting 2004 European champions FC Porto (2:45 p.m., Fox Soccer Plus) after qualifying from a group that included Real Madrid and Liverpool.
On par with Real and Chelsea, Porto has not suffered a loss yet in this year’s competition. Its 16 goals scored this season is the second most, behind only Chelsea’s 17.
Other than Spanish forward Adrian Lopez, Porto is expected to have a complete squad ready for the match in Switzerland. Basel will be missing defender Ivan Ivanov, while Fabian Schar is out through suspension.
This will be the first meeting between these teams, though Basel has played Portuguese opposition four times in the Champions League and failed to win all of them.