It’s often said that there can exist a fine line between intense desire or want and obsession. One is considered within the normal range of human emotions, whilst the other oftentimes has negative connotations associated with it. Either way, it’s pretty similar to the interesting balance between genius and insanity: one is lauded, whereas the other is feared, scorned and generally misunderstood.
Philosophical and social waxing aside, Real Madrid and their supporters have been long awaiting the return of the Champions League trophy to their home ground. Los Blancos are presently the most decorated club in Europe, with nine titles to their name, yet have found success hard to come by since their triumph a dozen seasons ago in Glasgow when two goals from Zinedane Zidane and Raul were enough to defeat Bayer Leverkusen.
Since then, the capital giants have failed to even make the finals of European football’s premier competition, although they have appeared in the semi-finals for the past three seasons, where they were beaten by German opposition twice and by arch-rivals Barcelona once. As a result, the club has undergone some dramatic changes during this summer’s transfer market, notably the sales of Mesut Ozil and Gonzalo Higuain to Arsenal and Napoli respectively, and the purchase of Gareth Bale from Tottenham in an attempt to further enhance their attack and take some of the pressure of their key hit-man Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese himself has been in fine form this season for both club and country, single-handedly taking Portugal to the World Cup at the expense of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden and scoring seemingly at will both in league and continental competition. In fact, his nine goals in the group stages were the most ever in Champions League history, surpassing the record of eight previously established by the duo of Filippo Inzaghi and Hernán Crespo (in 2002-2003) and matched by Ruud van Nistelrooy (in the 2004-2005 season).
Schalke, their upcoming opponents, are no stranger to manager Carlo Ancelotti, who defeated die Königsblauen back in the 2005-2006 season in the final clash of the group stage round with AC Milan. In fact, the Italian tactician has yet to taste defeat against any Bundesliga sides, with a record of six draws and three wins all during his time with the Rossoneri. This will certainly be encouraging to Los Blancos’ large fan base as their side prepare to take on Jens Keller’s troops tomorrow evening.
At the time of this writing, Schalke had scored just six goals so far in their European campaign; by contrast, Real Madrid have had 20, the highest of any team participating in the round of 16 with CR7 grabbing nearly 50% of those as he netted in all but one of his side’s six group matches. And given the fact that this year’s Ballon d’Or winner appears to be scoring just for the sake of it, expect him to add to that tally as he looks to lead his side to that long-awaited 10th CL title.
Certainly with sides like Barcelona and Bayern Munich, both of whom have knocked the Spanish side out of the competition in recent years still very much alive their task certainly won’t be an easy one. But, given how they comfortably cruised through their group clashes and could have drawn a tougher opponent than Schalke, the feeling is that this could possibly be their year to win it all.