Having just relinquished the lead in La Liga to Barcelona, Real Madrid now take on Schalke in the Champions League. So, could the German side manage the upset of the year on Tuesday night in Madrid?
It's not been the best start of the year for Real Madrid. The star-studded team have dropped 11 La Liga points in 2015 and now, shock horror, they are no longer top of the Spanish league. For their opponents in the Champions League on Tuesday night, Schalke, it may be the best time ever to play Real.
In the background are two Italian coaches - Roberto Di Matteo for Schalke and Carlo Ancelotti for Real Madrid - who have both come under severe scrutiny in recent months with their respective side's underperforming dramatically. Schalke's defensive style was torn apart at Borussia Dortmund in the Ruhr Valley derby just two weekends ago, whilst Real Madrid's stars aren't lighting up the Spanish capital as normal.
"There isn't enough connection between the players, it is too individualistic," said three-time Champions League winning coach Ancelotti after Real lost 1-0 against Athletic Bilbao in La Liga on Saturday.
Acknowledging his team has lost its confidence, the 55-year-old went on to say that the team's attacking play was "confusing" and needed a change.
Attacking stars struggling
Still, Ancelotti confirmed on Monday that he needs his team's biggest stars on hand on Tuesday to make sure of the team's progression to the next round of the Champions League.
"I have total confidence in BBC [Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo]," Ancelotti said at a press conference on Monday. "Them starting the game is a non-negotiable."
Real Madrid's attacking trio of Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo hasn't been firing on all cylinders since the turn of the year. Welshman Bale hasn't scored in 2015, Benzema has only two goals since the end of January and Ronaldo has seven goals in 12 appearances, a low tally for the FIFA World Player of the Year.
Schalke has also struggled to find the back of the net since the Bundesliga's restart, but a spark from their lastwin against Hoffenheim
- inspired by teenager Max Meyer who scored twice - could ignite Di Matteo's side to a famous victory. It would come against great odds however: Real Madrid is unbeaten in 21 Champions League games at the Santiago Bernabeu, dating back to April 2011.
"We want to put on a good showing in Madrid," said Schalke's commercial manager Horst Heldt to reporters, ahead of the team's departure for Madrid. "But most of all we have to win the game, and turn around the two goal deficit."
Schalke will be without Kevin Prince-Boateng for the Tuesday night game, missing due to suspension. Otherwise, the German side's long injury list, which features Julian Draxler, Ralf Fährmann and Chinedu Obasi, was shortened at the weekend as Leon Goretzka and Jan Kirchhoff returned from the bench. Both are available for Tuesday's game.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, is without Sergio Ramos (hamstring), Luka Modric (thigh) and James Rodriguez (toe). German international Sami Khedira has returned to team training and could play.
On Wednesday night, Bayern Munich faces Shakhtar Donetsk in the other Champions League game with Bundesliga involvement. The tie is currently finely balanced at 0-0 after the first leg in Ukraine and the German champions will be keen to not concede any goals. If they do, they'll have to outscore their Ukrainian opponents to go through to the Champions League quarterfinals.