Jens Keller says Real Madrid CF are the second-best team in the world but in Germany they will come up against the weight of history and a FC Schalke 04 side in fine fettle.
Article top media content
Jens Keller says Real Madrid CF are the second-best team in the world but he believes FC Schalke 04 can "pull off a little miracle" if they are at their peak. The Bundesliga club have not been far off that in recent weeks, going eight games unbeaten and conceding just twice in that sequence. Madrid are hardly struggling either, recording victories in 15 of their last 16 outings (they drew the other), and Carlo Ancelotti warns that Cristiano Ronaldo has extra motivation.
Jens Keller, Schalke coach
After Bayern, Real Madrid are maybe the second-best team in the world at the moment. They have extraordinary players in every position so it won't be an easy game. But we are the home team and must be brave; we will not hide. To be successful, everybody will have to be at 100%. Only then might it be possible to pull off a little miracle.
Real are on another level, financially, but as Dortmund proved by making it to the final last year, there is always a chance. Real Madrid have an incredible team but we're not bad either. We're in very good shape, as you can see from our recent results. But it is not just the results, but the manner in which we have achieved them.
Real are very strong at the back and play very aggressively. But our coaching staff will pinpoint some deficiencies and we will try to play on those. As you can see from the past few weeks, it can be quite hard to score against us. A clean sheet must be our aim.
Friday: Schalke 0-0 1. FSV Mainz 05
Fährmann; Hoogland, Santana, Matip, Kolasinac; Boateng, Neustädter; Farfan, Meyer (Draxler 65), Goretzka (Obasi 81); Huntelaar (Szalai 88).
• Schalke have won six and drawn two of their last eight matches, a run that has helped them climb to fourth in the Bundesliga, just two points behind second.
The Gelsenkirchen outfit have two significant boosts on the injury front, with captain Benedikt Höwedes and Julian Draxler both nearing fitness after thigh problems – Draxler made a substitute appearance against Mainz. Marco Höger (knee), Christian Clemens (pelvis), Atsuto Uchida (thigh) and Jan Kirchhoff (ligaments) are all sidelined.
Carlo Ancelotti, Madrid coach
I predict an intense match and I think Schalke will give everything in going for the win. We know all about their qualities. They are very well-organised, especially at the back, and have a good balance between young talented players like Max Meyer and Julian Draxler, and players with a lot of experience like Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. They do not play spectacular football but they are solid and consistent.
I do not have to tell my players much – they want to win every competition. At the moment the team are in a good shape, but we have to prepare for every match very methodically so that our run continues.
Ronaldo is especially motivated because he is ready to play again [after a three-match domestic ban]. He is very well prepared and has the right balance. I expect him to be in top shape, mentally and physically.
Saturday: Real Madrid 3-0 Elche CF (Illarramendi 34, Bale 71, Isco 81)
Diego López; Carvajal, Pepe, Varane, Arbeloa; Illarramendi, Alonso (Casemiro 83), Di María; Bale, Benzema (Morata 82), Jesé (Isco 74).
• Asier Illarramendi scored his first Liga goal for Madrid, who are 26 games unbeaten – winning 22 – the longest run without defeat in Carlo Ancelotti's coaching career. They top the table for the first time since May 2012.
Sami Khedira has been laid off since tearing knee ligaments in Germany's 1-1 draw with Italy on 15 November. Ronaldo returns having served the third of a three-game top-flight ban. Luka Modrić was also suspended at the weekend.
• Madrid have played 52 European games against ten different German sides but this will be their first-ever meeting with Schalke. They have won just once in 25 previous visits to Germany – something, Keller says, "we will try to continue".