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Giuseppe Meazza, Milan, Italy
April 06, 2011, 00:15 AM IST
Ever since last year’s Champions League final, there has been a battle between Germany and Italy for the number of Champions League places alloted to both countries. Inter were the sole representatives from Italy and they did make their country proud by defeating Bayern in the final, which helped Italy hold on to the elusive fourth Champions League spot. Inspite of their efforts this season, all the other Italian teams shamefully crashed out again in this year’s competition, thereby gifting an extra champions league spot to Germany, effective from 2012. Once again, Inter is the only Italian team left in the competition.
The Nerazzurri have undergone mixed emotions in the past few weeks. Their incredible win in Europe was followed by a hammering at the hands of AC Milan in the Milan derby. On a positive note, Inter have already eliminated a tougher German opposition – Bayern Munich – which should give them a lot of confidence to march towards another champions league final. However, to do that, the Nerazzurri will have to be at their best especially with the likes of Nauer in such remarkable form. Sneijder is also looking forward to face Raul, his ex-Real Madrid team-mate.
Schalke are having a weird season. The Germans have been underperforming in the domestic circle, yielding only 33 points from 27 games and they are currently sitting in 11th position. However, Schalke have been quite impressive in Europe and they eliminated strong opponents in Valencia in the round of 16. A similar result against the current European champions would be a sensational achievement for the Germans. Meanwhile, former Schalke midfielder Andreas Mueller is confident that Schalke can beat Inter again.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Samuel is the only notable key player to be out of this fixture. Julio Cesar will be hoping for a better performance from his back four after their disastrous display in the Milan derby. Inter fans will gladly welcome back Brazilian centre-back Lucio to partner Ranocchia after the former missed the Milan derby because of suspension. Maicon and Zanetti will cover the full-back positions.
Stankovic, Cambiasso and Thiago Motta will create a compact central midfield and support Sneijder who will be the main source of creativity. Eto’o and possibly Milito will be paired up-front as Pazzini is cup-tied. Milito is yet to return to his best but this is a perfect occasion to re-announce himself.
Inter will play with their regular 4-3-1-2 formation with the full-backs supporting the attacking midfielder and the two strikers. Cambiasso will be the holding midfielder along with Motta; both of whom will look to break the Germans’ play. Stankovic will play the role of a roaming box-to-box midfielder and support his attackers.
This leaves Sneijder and Eto’o to be the main attackers and perhaps, the key to success for Inter. Eto’o, like always, will be the spearhead and will be given a free role to trouble the Schalke defense with Milito as the target man.
Possible Line-up: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Ranocchia, Zanetti; Stankovic, Cambiasso, Thiago Motta; Sneijder; Milito, Eto’o
While Gavranovic and Kluge are likely to miss the game, Metzelder could possibly be available for the huge European tie. Schalke will also field a 4-3-1-2 formation with in-form captain Nauer between the posts. Metzelder and Hoewedes will be in the center of defence to stop Eto’o and Milito. Uchida and Sarpei will have to be defense-oriented full-backs given the nature of their opposition’s full-backs and will be pushing Maicon and Zanetti towards the touchline with the help of their wingers Jurado and Draxler.
Matip will be the holding midfielder and will be the main man for Schalke to link the attack and defense and he will also be responsible for breaking up play. Farfan who had an incredible game against Benfica will play in a slightly deep-lying playmaker role and will be the supply for strikers Raul and Edu.
The main threat for Schalke will come from Raul, the former legendary Real Madrid striker who has a bag full of experience at this level. With his ever green goal-scoring touch in Europe, the Spaniard will definitely be looking forward to troubling the Inter defense.
Possible Line-up: Neuer; Uchida, Hoewedes, Metzelder, Sarpei; Jurado, Matip, Draxler, Farfan; Raul, Edu
Inter Milan: L-W–W-D-W
Schalke 04: L-W-W-L-W
1. Samuel Eto’o is the joint top scorer in Europe this season along with Messi and Gomez.
2. Schalke won the last time these two met in Europe via penalties in the 1997 UEFA cup.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Samuel Eto’o (Internazionale)
Undoubtedly, Eto’o has been Inter’s most consistent and reliable player of this campaign. However, Samu had a dearth of support against Milan which led him to be isolated on the left side of the play with the Milan defense double-marking him. The German defense may not be as good as Milan’s defense, though. On top of that, Eto’o has been the joint top-scorer in Europe which gives him more confidence to trouble the Germans and drag his team to the next round.
Manuel Nauer (Schalke 04)
On paper, Inter should ideally destroy the Schalke defense. However, there is one big wall in between the Nerazzurri and Schalke’s goalline and that comes in the name of Manuel Nauer. The German shot stopper has been in a class of his own ever since the World Cup and has been the saviour of the Germans, both at club and country levels. Without this talented keeper, Schalke are a safe bet to be a relegation candidate. In Europe, Nauer is one of the main reasons for Schalke’s continued European success thus far and the Germans need their star man to be in full swing against the European Champions.
Inter Milan 2-1 Schalke 04
A high scoring result is very unlikely as both the sides will be cautious with Inter looking to take advantage at home. Inter will definitely get a goal or two considering the vulnerability of the Schalke defense but at the same time the Italians’ defense would be lacking in confidence after a thumping received at the hands of AC Milan. So, a close win for the Nerazzurri with an away goal for Schalke would be ideal for both the sides with the second leg a week away.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST