Real Madrid played up how much they respected Schalke going into the first leg of their Champions League tie, and on the evidence of their performance at the Veltins Arena, they believed everything they were saying. They took Schalke so seriously that they dumped six goals on them, rendering the second leg of this tie utterly meaningless, even if the hosts did add a goal at the end.
It's probably a good thing they did take that match so seriously and lay such a savage beating on their opponents. They have a massive game against Barcelona this weekend and their coaching staff is probably very pleased that they get to spend almost all of their time focusing on that game and very little time focusing on Schalke. Their players who are dealing with nagging minor injuries are probably pretty pleased about getting a rest too. Cristiano Ronaldo will not rest, mostly because he is a cyborg.
However, there have been a couple of good things that have come out of this tie. One, we know that there is a team that has the ability to match Bayern Munich. Not that we can predict what would happen in a hypothetical Real Madrid-Bayern Munich matchup, but Bayern beat Schalke by one fewer goal than Madrid did a few days later. It's nice to know that the current champions of Europe have a rough equal. Two, this second leg will probably feature some players we don't get to see too often, as well as very little in the way of tactics or craps given. So it might get really fun. Fun is good!
First leg score
Schalke 1-6 Real Madrid. Schalke's one goal was pretty, though!
Schalke's injury list has been lengthy all season, and it's only getting longer. Jefferson Farfan, Christian Fuchs and Felipe Santana have all picked up injuries since the first leg and will not play in Madrid. They join long-term absentees Atsuto Uchida, Jan Kirchhoff, Christian Clemens, Marco Höger and Dennis Aogo on the sidelines.
Real Madrid have a fairly clean bill of health, but will rest some players in this game. Karim Benzema picked up an injury at the weekend and will not play in this game, but Carlo Ancelotti insists he will be fit for the Clasico. Ancelotti has also stated that Jese, Alvaro Morata, Cristiano Ronaldo and Isco will all play, implying that Gareth Bale will be rested. Don't be shocked if some of their other first choice players sit out as well. Sami Khedira and Alvaro Arbeloa are both out injured.
Projected lineups (left to right)
Real Madrid (4-3-3): Iker Casillas; Fabio Coentrao, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Daniel Carvajal; Angel Di Maria, Asier Illaramendi, Isco; Cristiano Ronaldo, Alvaro Morata, Jese Rodriguez
Real Madrid vs. Upcoming Clasico Syndrome - As we learned in the first leg of this tie, Schalke are absolutely no match for a fully-focused and motivated Real Madrid team. Of course, they're not going to be facing a fully-focused and motivated Real Madrid team. With a five-goal lead and a Clasico on Sunday, Madrid are unlikely to be at their best. It's not like they're under any threat of actually losing this tie, but they'd probably like to avoid a three- or four-goal loss.
Max Meyer vs. Madrid's midfield - In the preview for the first leg, we wondered if Max Meyer would deal with the big stage well. While he might have been nervous, the much bigger issue for him was that Real Madrid's midfield were very good and his teammates were very bad. He'll have a tough time getting and keeping the ball against Madrid's midfield, but he'll need to find a way, assuming Schalke care about putting in a decent performance.
Assuming he plays, that is. It's not like anyone knows for sure what this game is going to be.
I'd like to reiterate that Real Madrid have a Clasico coming up this weekend. Yes, they're an amazing team with an amazing bench that is undoubtedly still better than Schalke even with multiple stars benched, but Clasicos are Clasicos. They're going to be focused on that. Can you blame them? 2-1 Schalke, just because there's no reason to expect to see Madrid's best. Obviously, that's more than good enough for Madrid to advance.