GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany: Real Madrid are turning the corner after a stuttering start to the year and Wednesday`s Champions League Round of 16 first leg at Schalke 04 will prove it, coach Carlo Ancelotti said.
The title holders, aiming to become the first team to retain the Champions League crown, will have defender Pepe fit for the game, the Italian said.
Real, chasing their 11th European Cup, have struggled this year, having been knocked out of the King’s Cup by Atletico Madrid while a 4-0 drubbing at their city rivals in La Liga this month cut their lead over second-placed Barcelona to a point.
"With such a result (against Atletico) it is important to turn the corner quickly. We did it well against Deportivo La Coruna (with a 2-0 win). But we can improve and we want to show that tomorrow," Ancelotti told reporters on Tuesday.
He sounded confident Cristiano Ronaldo will quickly rediscover his scoring form with the Portugal captain off colour since winning a third FIFA Ballon d’Or award last month.
He again failed to score in Saturday’s unconvincing win at home to Deportivo and has managed only four goals this year, low by his prolific standard.
"Against Deportivo I think he looked physically very good. He had the intensity. I think he is constantly improving. He has not scored yet but tomorrow he has the chance to do it."
No club has retained the Champions League trophy since its introduction in 1992/93 and Ancelotti said a return to Schalke, after demolishing them 6-1 at the same stage last year before going on to win the title, was a good omen.
"This is fantastic motivation for us," Ancelotti, who won back-to-back European Cup titles as a player at AC Milan in 1989 and 1990, said.
"We were here (at Schalke) with the dream to win it last year and we are here this year and we have the same dream.
"History will say it is really difficult, almost impossible but we have to try," he said.