Former Real Madrid defender Roberto Carlos says the club’s inexplicably poor record in Germany might add to pressure on the current side in Wednesday evening’s Champions League last 16 first leg at Schalke.
Madrid have just one win from 25 previous visits to Germany in European competition, and were beaten 4-1 at Borussia Dortmund on their most recent visit in last year’s Champions League semifinal first leg. Fans and media in the Spanish capital are well aware of the ‘curse’, and AS devoted its cover on Wednesday morning to the issue - going with a headline of ‘Cristiano against the German Ogre’.
The current manager of Turkish side Sivasspor told AS that knowledge of the poor record had really affected the players during his time as a Madrid player from 1996 to 2007.
“In Germany, and I played many games there, we went out so concentrated and with the intention that everything would come out well that we did not enjoy the games, it was impossible,” Carlos said. “It always happened. We had so much pressure on top of us. We were never afraid to play anywhere, but Germany was always special.”
The former Brazil left-back scored twice on Madrid’s only victory on German soil, a 3-2 win at Bayer Leverkusen in September 2000.
“I remember my second goal perfectly,” he said. “It was my own move, I robbed the ball from [Jens] Nowotny, got away on my own, saw the goalkeeper was a bit far forward, shot and it went well. It was like I was on a cloud.”
Carlos said that the difference in quality between the current Madrid side and an inexperienced Schalke XI, who were fortunate to make it out of their group last autumn, should really overcome any historic issues in Wednesday’s game.
“Now it is the time for Madrid to win again in Germany,” he said. “They are the better side. It is a good chance. It is incredible that of 25 meetings there we only won one.”
The clash at the Veltins Arena is the first ever between the clubs in European competition, but Madrid’s current midfielder Xabi Alonso told the official pre-match news conference that he expected a stiff test.
“It is the first time we have met but Schalke have experience in the Champions League,” Alonso said. “They have progressed to the semis or quarter-finals in recent years, and have players who have played a lot in this competition.
"We have maximum respect for them, we know it will be a difficult game, and that their fans will be behind them. So we are fully prepared for that. They are a physical team with very good players.”
Asked if Ronaldo was likely to be extra motivated for the game, after a spell without football due to his recently served three-game La Liga ban, Alonso was nonplussed.
“[Ronaldo] is the same as always, he has been a bit frustrated as it was obvious that three games was not fair for what happened in Bilbao,” he added. “Having him waiting was not normal either. But that has passed now, is not important any more, and for tomorrow I see him as always. This is a very important competition for us and we are all very focused.”
The Spanish international suggested his own fitness was better now than during the decisive stages of previous seasons.
“I feel good,” Alonso said. “The injury was operated upon. I am good for the final phase of the season, well prepared, knowing that we are playing for our future this season. At the moment I am just thinking game by game.
"We are in a good moment. We are in a very good position in each competition, first in Liga, in Copa final and now we have the Champions League. We are progressing, we do not want to stop, [we must] keep improving, as the important and decisive games are coming. The sensations are good, but we know that could change in any moment.”