Ronaldo boost for in-form Real

Real Madrid welcome back Cristiano Ronaldo for tonight’s Champions League last-16 first leg clash against Schalke in Gelsenkirchen (kick-off 7:45pm).

The Fifa Ballon d’Or winner, who scored a competition-record nine goals in the group stage, returns after serving a three-match suspension in La Liga for his sending-off against Athletic Bilbao earlier this month.

Ronaldo’s availability is a further boost in confidence for the Spanish giants, who travel to the Veltins Arena in hugely impressive form.

The nine-time European champions are unbeaten in 27 games in all competitions, of which they have won 23.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men have also kept 13 clean sheets in their last 15 games, helping them through to the final of the Copa del Rey and to open up a three-point lead over Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the top of the Primera Division standings.

“We are where we want to be,” Real captain Iker Casillas said. “We are alive in three competitions and we are fighting to win them all.

“We know it’s going to be difficult to win a treble but we will try.”

Casillas knows his team must keep their feet firmly on the ground though, warning Schalke pose a serious threat to their dreams of winning a record 10th European Cup title.

“I consider them a dangerous rival,” the Spain goalkeeper said.

Schalke striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar, who played for Madrid six years ago, insists his side are underdogs but will be hoping they can get a good result to take to the Bernabeu for the return leg on March 18.

“Madrid are favourites,” Huntelaar said. “But we are playing the first leg at home and we will make them work very hard.

“This is the first time we face Madrid and we will try everything to beat them and continue in the competition.”


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