The obsession with Champions League glory has been growing each year at Santiago Bernabeu with the club craving a 10th title after such a long wait time without the famous trophy. Not since 2002 and that fabulous volley from Zinidine Zidane have they been crowned kings of Europe but with Zizou looking on from the sidelines, the current crop are hitting top form at just the right time.
Talk of their woeful record on German soil was made to look silly as Madrid began like a house on fire. From start to finish the Schalke back line could not handle the stunning pace and quick interchanges from Los Blancos’ irresistible strike force. Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo all notched braces but it's no exaggeration to say it could have been double figures for Carlo Ancelotti's side.
Schalke were by no means at their best but this was a Madrid side that meant business, as if they wanted to send a message to the remaining teams left: that they are back to their glorious best. The ease with which they dispatched a side flying high in the Bundesliga was impressive. Madrid’s unbeaten run now stretches to 27 games in all competitions and it’s hard to see where it will end.
In goal they have two keepers on top of their game. Iker Casillas, having produced a miraculous save in the first half, was only beaten by a missile at the death from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. It was the first time Casillas had conceded in 952 minutes. Meanwhile, Diego Lopez has conceded just three in eight League games and the back four is rarely tested as opponents are penned in their own half while Madrid blitz whoever is in their way.
Madrid’s wealth of attacking options is long-established and could match anyone in Europe. Conceding few and scoring many – it sounds very similar to the season in which Jose Mourinho guided Madrid to La Liga glory, but he couldn't give the club European success. In a season where English teams are struggling and Italians stumbling, the holders Bayern remain the biggest danger. However the difficulty of retaining the title has been evident over the years.
Madrid's main threat may come from home, where they already have the upper hand. With unwanted Press circulating Camp Nou amid inconsistent performances in front of wavering crowds, Barcelona are not at their strongest, while Atletico Madrid's superb work in the first half of the season seems to be fading away.
With no bad publicity off the field surrounding the club and focus solely on the football, it's not a situation Madrid have been used to over the years. After a slow start they have got better every week under Ancelotti, who is drawing the best out of a talented and happy squad, something with which his predecessors have struggled.
Madrid have hit their best just as the big tests keep coming and look favourites to pick up the two domestic titles on current form. Things can change but win the Madrid derby at the weekend and that would be one step closer to a successful season. But European glory continues to be what the club crave and they won't have a better chance than this year.