How fortunate are Schalke 04 to be pitting their footballing ability against Real Madrid at a time when Cristiano Ronaldo has lost touch with his superpowers and his shield of invincibility has been penetrated?
If you believe the average report the Portuguese superstar is in the middle of a goal-drought, having not found the back of the net since Real’s 3-0 humbling of Getafe on January 18.
Whilst that may seem a long-time, when it’s considered that he’s only actually played three matches since that date - he missed two as part of his ban for getting sent off against Cordoba - it can only be considered a drought if you’re using Sunday League parameters.
Nevertheless dubbing it a drought is a fair testament to his reputation and devastating record in front of goal, and so it’s something Ronaldo is sure to be desperate to rectify. We’re talking about a man who prides himself on being considered one of the best athletes in the world, and he’ll certainly be reacting adversely to claims that he’s fallen off the wagon, as it were, since being handed the 2015 Ballon d’Or.
Schalke v Madrid
That’s why if anything Schalke should perhaps be even more apprehensive and cautious of the beast that approaches the Veltins-Arena tonight. It’s no coincidence that Ronaldo’s relative dip in form has coincided in Real’s impregnable Locomotiv coming off its rails since the turn of the year, and Los Blancos will be watering at the mouth at the prospect of restoring order against Roberto Di Matteo’s side.
If ever there was a cause for the German’s fearing a man with nothing to lose then Ronaldo is its embodiment. The last time the 30-year-old went three matches across all competitions without scoring a goal was over a year ago, with fortune-less games coming against Espanyol, at the end of the 2014 January transfer window, Athletic Bilbao and then Atletico Madrid. He was coincidentally sent off in the game against Bilbao, make of that what you will.
Wolf amongst the sheep
Of course he returned to action after that little barren spell to finish the season with aplomb, and his exploits in the months that followed - World Cup aside - pushed him ahead of Lionel Messi with regards to the player most widely considered the best on the planet.
In Schalke he could not ask for a team more ripe for the picking. Di Matteo may have made a concerted effort to calm the waters in and around the club, but they remain an outfit beset with problems, and their flaky form is indicative of a unit that can so often be the architects of their own downfall.
When coming up against the attacking instruments that Carlo Ancelotti can boast they need to be absolutely water-tight to salvage something from the game, but the simple fact of the matter is that Ronaldo has come up against far better defenders than the likes of Matija Nastasic and Benedikt Howedes and torn them to shreds.
With last year’s 6-1 drubbing still fresh enough in the memory to be giving Schalke players nightmares ahead of tonight’s meet the pressure will be on them to somehow produce something positive they can take to the Santiago Bernabeu in around three week’s time.
With Ronaldo also beginning to feel the heat, from his own lofty standards as much as anyone else, you can bet he’ll be ready to fly out the traps and prove that the notion of a ‘goal drought’ for him is every bit as ridiculous as it sounds.
Is Cristiano Ronaldo really experiencing a dip in form? Or will he prove tonight that he’s not lost his midas touch? Let us know in the comments box below...