5 Reasons Why Schalke 04 Will Win 2014 Champions League

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5 Reasons Why Schalke 04 Will Win the 2014 Champions League

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Photo Courtesy of @s04 Twitter

FC Schalke are the other team in the Bundesliga. That said, Die Knappen have quietly been highly successful in the German top flight for the past few years. Despite maintaining the disadvantage of not being Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund, Schalke have managed to attract good players while staying competitive in both the Bundesliga and Champions League.

In the tournament this season, Schalke were placed in Group E along with Chelsea, FC Basel and Steaua Bucuresti. Although they were unable to overcome Premier League leaders Chelsea, Schalke remained unbeaten in their fixtures against the other two sides.

Now, Schalke will come up against their toughest test yet: Real Madrid. This is one of the least-wanted Round of 16 draws, and will surely test this team’s mettle. As an ambitious, professional club, they will meet the challenge head-on as long as they do not beat themselves before the game begins. The reputation of a team like Los Blanco has the ability to mentally overpower a team before a whistle sounds.

Yet, Schalke are not at a disadvantage. They play in a competitive league despite the extreme dominance of Bayern Munich, and the clubs play uptempo, organized football. As the world witnessed last year, Germany boasts some of the best competition in Europe, and it does not end with Dortmund and Munich. Four Bundesliga sides made it into the knockout stages, which equals the Premier League and betters La Liga, the Serie A and Ligue 1.

History proves that the club that wins the Champions League is not always the best of those involved. Schalke can be that underdog champ, and here are five reasons why.

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5. 'All Downhill From Here'

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If Schalke can beat Real Madrid early in the knockout stages, they will be well prepared for the road ahead. Madrid may not be the best team in the tournament, but few can match their quality in one-off games, and beating them will be a huge measuring stick for Schalke.

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4. Fixture Congestion Next Season

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Currently, Schalke sit fourth in the Bundesliga behind the likes of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen. Fourth place will earn them the ability to qualify for Champions League football. Winning the Champions League final will automatically qualify Schalke for next year's tournament regardless of league ranking, effectively erasing the fixture pile-up.

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3. Experienced Defense

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One thing Schalke boasts is a fit defensive back line. Benedikt Howedes and Atsuto Uchida have started all six Champions League games for Schalke, while Dennis Aogo and Joel Matip have started five and four tournament games respectively. With Felipe Santana and Christian Fuchs both available as well, Schalke's back line will be able to allow their creative players to do what they do best and focus on the attack.

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2. Rising Young Stars

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Schalke have not only relied on their youngsters, but they have thrived with them as well. Wunderkinds like Arsenal target Julian Draxler, Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka all fit into the attacking midfield setup and can create chances and score goals with the best of them.

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1. The Return of Huntelaar

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After being out for a year after right-knee surgery, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has returned to Schalke better than ever. Since he has been back, the Dutch international has started six Bundesliga games and has scored for goals. His inclusion will either make or break Schalke's success in the Champions League knockout stages, as the club needs to find goals from players other than Draxler.

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