Fans can watch live online Wednesday as traditional German Bundesliga powerhouse FC Schalke 04 takes on reigning UEFA Champions League Cup holders Real Madrid in a rematch of last year’s Round of 16 matchup. But while Real Madrid cruised to a 9-2 aggregate shellacking of the Gelsenkirchen-based club in 2014, experts believe that this year’s Round of 16 matchup, starting with the first leg at Veltins Arena, could follow a very different script.
To watch live online streaming video of FC Schalke vs. Real Madrid, see the link below.
Why the difference from 2014 to 2015?
Change starts at the top, and the biggest change from last year’s edition of the 111-year-old club is new manager Roberto Di Matteo. Not only does the Italian come with a Champions League pedigree, guiding Chelsea to the 2012 UCL title, but after taking over from Jens Keller on October 7, has applied a steady hand in lifting last-year’s third-place Bundesliga finishers from 11th place back into the German league’s top four.
Di Matteo has done it by molding this year’s Schalke 04 squad into a well-disciplined defensive unit that has allowed just 23 goals in 21 league games so far this season, third-fewest in the Bundesliga. More importantly, just 11 of those goals have come in the 14 Bundesliga matches under Di Matteo’s stewardship.
But will that tight Di Matteo defensive scheme be capable of frustrating a Real Madrid side led by the world’s top goal scoring force, Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as another prolific scorer in fleet-footed Welsh fullback Gareth Bale?
With both Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric unavailable for Real Madrid Manager Carlo Ancelotti — another former Chelsea boss — Schalke have at least a chance of stealing this one on their home ground. But against a team that won all six of its Champions League group stage matches — leading at the half as well as after full time in the last four — Di Matteo’s crew has an uphill battle.
But if the Schalke back three anchored by Serbian international Matija Nastasić, added over the winter on loan from Manchester City, can weather the inevitable Real Madrid storm, keeping Ronaldo and Bale off the boards for at least the first half, their chances of grabbing a surprise goal or two on the counterattack give the German side at least hope of a startling upset — possibly taking a lead, or least not a deficit, back to the Bernabeau for the second leg of the UEFA Champions League knockout tie.
Live online streaming video of the crucial FC Schalke 04 vs Real Madrid showdown begins at 2:30 pm United States EST, via Fox Sports Go. To watch, click on this link, or download the Fox Sports Go app for mobile devices. The Fox Soccer 2 Go service, at this link, also offers all Champions League games for a subscription fee.
[Images: Alex Grimm (top)/Denis Doyle (interior)/Getty Images]