Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti believes his team needs to start playing well again and is confident they will take steps towards improving recent performances this evening against Schalke 04.
The Italian boss was speaking ahead of his side’s Champions League Round of 16 first leg in Gelsenkirchen. Ancelotti is trying to remain upbeat despite his squad’s recent lackluster performances, locker room unrest and injury problems.
Since returning from the winter break, Real Madrid have played ten times in all competitions: winning six, losing three with one draw. This coming after the club had picked up two trophies (UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup) and went on a record breaking 22-match winning streak.
As of late, Real Madrid have been struggling to regain their previous high-flying attacking form. The club’s front three of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo have 68 goals and 38 assists in all competitions this season. But since the start of the New Year, the attacking trio have combined for only 11 goals and seven assists in ten games.
Although Madrid defeated Deportivo La Coruna at home this past weekend, the players were jeered and whistled for much of the match due to their poor form and because of the controversy surrounding Ronaldo’s 30th birthday party – which the forward held after the club’s 4-0 derby defeat to Atletico Madrid.
Ancelotti believes that a return to European competition should prove the remedy to Real Madrid’s recent ills, with his players spurred on by the though of defending their crown as champions of Europe.
“It’s good to be back in the Champions League and we want to put in a good performances,” Ancelotti said in his pre-match press conference. “I’m not worried. Motivation is always high, as it is in the league. We are top of the league. We are Champions League holders and will give our all to defend the title.”
“After a result like the one against Atletico [Madrid], it is all about turning things around as quickly as possible.”
“Defending the Champions League title is fantastic motivation. Last year, we were here with the dream of winning the Champions League. Now we have the same dream. History says it will be really difficult, almost impossible, but we have to try.”
No team has ever repeated as Champions League winners.
As for the match-up with Schalke 04, the two teams met during the same stage of the competitions last season, with Real Madrid defeating the German side by an aggregate score of 9-2; including a 6-1 victory in Gersenkirchen.
Programming note: Schalke 04 vs. Real Madrid will be shown LIVE today at 2:45pm EST on FOX Sports 1 and FoxSoccer2Go.
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