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Champions League Wednesday preview: Real Madrid takes next step in defense


Schalke’s Italian head coach Roberto Di Matteo and Schalke’s Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (R) address a press conferences on the eve of the last 16, first-leg Champions League football match Schalke 04 vs Real Madrid in Gelsenkirchen, western Germany on February 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PATRIK STOLLARZ (Photo credit should read PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

Many neutrals will be hoping for more exciting UEFA Champions League action come Wednesday, and even ardent fans of the teams that played Tuesday have to admit there was a lot left to be desired after a pair of low-action draws.

So can we expect better than what Chelsea, PSG, Shakhtar Donetsk and Bayern Munich gave us on Tuesday?

Almost certainly.

[ MORE: Champions League roundup ]

High-flying Real Madrid heads to Germany to take on Schalke, while sneaky good Porto will head to Switzerland for a first leg against steady Basel. Why should it be better?

FC Basel vs. Porto

For one thing, Porto may not be the club that won it all for Jose Mourinho in 2004, but they have plenty of exciting players on the squad. Granted Group H wasn’t a difficult group, but Porto boasted 16 goals and a plus-12 goal differential. Jackson Martinez has led the way for Porto with five goals, but plenty have chipped in to help. Cameroon’s Vincent Aboubaker, Algeria’s Yachine Brahimi and the Netherlands’ Bruno Martins Indi are players who can make an impact for the Portuguese side.

Basel is a steady side that finished second in Group B, keeping Liverpool from the Round of 16, but claims it won’t sit back against Porto. Fabian Frei and Derlis Gonzalez provide much of the offense for a team that scored just 7 times in the group stage, allowing eight. However that includes a 5-1 loss at Real Madrid and another 1-0 loss versus the reigning champs. Take away Madrid, and Basel has scored six goals, conceding just two. That includes taking four of six points from Liverpool.

Schalke vs. Real Madrid

The hosts are in their fourth-straight Round of 16, but haven’t made the quarterfinals since 2011 when they lost to Manchester United in the semifinal. That said, Schalke was soundly defeated by Real Madrid last season in this round (9-2 on aggregate). Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has three goals in this season’s UCL, but may have to better that over two legs if Schalke wants any hope of upsetting the champs.

Roberto Di Matteo says they’ll have to hope Madrid doesn’t reclaim its form:

Of course we have all seen that Madrid have shown certain weaknesses in the past three or four weeks, so we will focus on capitalising on them. Every team has weaknesses. Nevertheless, they are still a side with very good players.

Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo have lit the UCL on fire so far, with five goals and two assists each. Only three players (Edinson Cavani, Luis Adriano and Lionel Messi) have scored more so far this season. Madrid only conceded a pair of goals in group play, one on the road at Razgrad and another in a 5-1 blowout of Basel. Look for more fireworks here.

Follow @NicholasMendola