GELSENKIRCHEN - Real Madrid are targeting a rare win in Germany when they take on Schalke 04 in Wednesday's Champions League last 16, first-leg clash, the Spanish giants' Gareth Bale says. Having scored 20 goals in the group stages, Madrid are looking to improve on their dreadful away record in Germany as they take on Schalke for the first time. "We know the Champions League is a big competition with all the best teams in it, so we know it is going to be difficult," said the 24-year-old Wales winger.
"I think we are ready, we believe we can win every game so we'll go over there and hopefully come back with the win." The Spanish league leaders are unbeaten in 26 games in all competitions, dating back to last October, and are clear favourites against the Royal Blues of Gelsenkirchen, who are fourth in the Bundesliga. But Madrid have prevailed just once in 24 previous away matches against German opposition, losing 17 times, including a 4-1 drubbing at Borussia Dortmund in last season's semi-final first leg when Robert Lewandowski hit all four goals.
That said, Schalke's form this season has been erratic and they have won only five of their last 11 home encounters against Spanish opponents, suffering four defeats. Madrid will be able to call on the firepower of Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, who returns from a three-game ban. The injury doubts are left-backs Marcelo and Fabio Coentrao as neither played in the 3-0 win against Elche on Saturday, so Alvaro Arbeloa could deputise if neither are fit. Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos are also expected to return after being suspended and rested respectively at the weekend. Schalke were denied a fifth straight league win when they were held to a goalless draw at home to Mainz on Friday. There was good news, though, for Schalke as Arsenal-target Julian Draxler came off the bench to make his return after two months out with a foot injury. "As a young boy you dream about facing teams like Real Madrid so we're all really up for it," said the 20-year-old. "I'm happy to be back out on the pitch, but I think I'm still some way off my best form. That was the first lengthy lay-off of my career, so I'm a bit impatient, but I know I need more time."
Teenager Leon Goretzka has said the hosts are looking for an upset at the Veltins Arena. "We're looking forward to the highlight in the Champions League," said the 19-year-old. "We'll do everything in our power to cause an upset." Goalkeeper Ralf Faehrmann has said Schalke are relishing the role of underdogs. "Sometimes we find it easier when we don't really have to take the game to our opponents," he said. "We need to stay compact and wait for our chances. You always get a chance in a match and when we do we need to take it. We aren't favourites, of course, but we hope to take advantage of our underdog role to spring a surprise."
Coach Jens Keller, who hopes to have captain and centre-back Benedikt Hoewedes fit, has said Schalke will not be intimidated by star-studded Real. "We want to pull off a small miracle. We're not just going out there to swap shirts with Real's stars," said Keller defiantly, referring to Bayer Leverkusen's drubbing by Real's Spanish rivals Barcelona at the same stage in the competition two years ago. Leverkusen were beaten 3-1 at home in the last 16, then thrashed 7-1 in Barcelona, but not before Bayer players Michal Kadlec and Manuel Friedrich had argued over who would swap shirts with Barcelona star Lionel Messi.