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SCHALKE 04

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INTER

Veltins Arena, Gelsenkirchen

April 13, 2011, 18:45 GMT

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Schalke are all set to host the defending champions at the Veltins Arena, in a bid to book a berth to the semifinal spot in this year’s Champions League. The first leg of this encounter saw the Royal Blues hand a real beating to Inter at the San Siro on a crazy night when the visitors put the ball behind the host’s net an incredible five times, conceding only twice in return.

Schalke came twice from behind to complete a rout that not even their staunchest of supporters would ever have expected. The decision to slot in Chivu at centre half, alongside Ranocchia, backfired as the Romanian international looked lost in the high weeds throughout the match. Chivu was somewhat relieved after receiving his quota of marching order midway through the second half, leaving the then hosts down to ten men. What followed after that has taken its place in Schalke’s folklore, but from the point of view of the defending champions, it was shambolic.

Schalke are presently sitting at ninth place in the league table and six points adrift from fifth-placed Mainz for Europa League qualification. With only five more games to go, it is highly likely that Schalke will not be playing in any of the European competitions next year. Amidst all the doldrums of a failed domestic season and sacking of manager Felix Magath, Schalke have done comparatively well of late. They have won four of their last five competitive games. Ralf Rangnick’s side is within striking distance of winning their first silverware of the season when they edged Bayern Munich to the final of DFB Pokal. In the final, they take on Bundesliga 2 side Duisberg and are the favourites. The Miners have been prolific at their own backyard in the continental competition, having won all the four games so far. Moreover, they have scored three goals in each of the last three games at Gelesenkirchen. Fresh from a 1-0 victory over Wolfsburg, this tie looks like an apple pie order for the hosts to oust the defending champions.

Schalke have the upper hand

As things stand, Inter seem to be an overwhelming outsider in this encounter. After a deserving victory over Chievo, Inter have kept their title hopes alive. They are in third place in Serie A, five points adrift of pacesetters Milan with only six more games to go. The Italian side is in the position of repeating the improbable, again! In the previous round, it was a similar situation when Inter had to overturn a home defeat to qualify for the quarter-finals, a feat which was achieved only once in the history of the Champions League, by Ajax in 1995/96 season. Thanks to a brilliant all round display at the Allianz Arena by the entire team, Inter qualified for the quarter finals.

A shambolic home defeat has once again put them through the acid test of doing the improbable to qualify for the semi-finals. The first leg pointed out the shortcomings of Inter’s defense in the absence of veteran centre half Lucio. With Lucio’s return, their central defense will definitely look stronger. Inter will get their full team against Schalke but in all probability it will be an insurmountable task on the hands of the Nerazzurri to overturn a three away goal deficit.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Schalke

Schalke are likely to field a strong side despite a formidable lead. Huntelaar and Gavranovic are still on the road to recovery. The bad news is that in-form striker Farfan will miss this clash due to suspension. With veteran German centre half Metzelder out injured, it is expected that Rangnick will have to make do with slotting in Cameroon international Matip alongside Höwedes in Schalke’s frail defense. Serpei and Uchida to play as fullbacks. Baumjohann, Schmitz and Papadopoulos will be used to crowd the midfield and defend aggressively. Jurado and Edu are expected to provide supply for Raul as well as tracking back to support their fullbacks.

Schalke, with no onus of scoring goals, would like to sit back and hit Inter hard on counter. They are likely to field a 4-5-1 team with a packed midfield. The idea of defending looks disastrous as Schalke have a fragile defense, having conceded in each of their last four Champions League game. But surely even a defensively crippled side must be able to hold on to a three goal cushion. The trio of Baumjohann, Schmitz and Papadopoulos will be used to mainly for defensive duties and ball winning duties in the midfield with an eye for the wide players every now and then. Jurado and Edu made it miserable for the Italians in the reverse fixture. They will be asked to execute the same duty by keeping the pressure on the Inter fullbacks and lead Schalke counters down both the flanks, courting sole striker Raul.

Probable Starting Line-up(4-5-1): Neuer(GK), Serpei, Höwedes,Matip,Uchida, Schmitz,Papadopoulos, Baumjohann,Edu,Jurado,Raul.

football formations

Internazionale

Good news for Inter is that Lucio is back from suspension. Samuel, who was out injured for the past five months, was back in training and is likely to travel with the team to Gelesenkrichen. Lucio will pair up with Ranocchia and Maicon to play as the right back. With Chivu out of the equation, it could be either veteran defender Zanetti or a more attacking prospect Nagatomo to start in the left back. The trio of Motta, Cambiasso and Stankovic are expected to start. Sneijder to link up the midfield with the attackers Eto’o and Milito.

Inter have no other choice but to attack right from the word go.  A dangerous strategy against a side which has been able to successfully exploit the gaps left by their oppositions. Maicon and Nagatomo will be used to play a more attacking role, serving crosses for the strikers. Motta and Cambiasso will be asked to fill in the void of the fullbacks whenever they roam in the attacking third of Schalke. Sneijder will play a crucial role in dead ball situation as well as in linking well with Eto’o and Milito.

Probable Starting Line-up(4-3-1-2): Cesar(GK), Maicon, Lucio, Ranocchia, Nagatomo, Stankovic, Cambiasso, Motta, Sneijder, Eto’o, Milito.

Key Facts

1. Schalke have never lost a European tie after winning the first leg on the road.

2. The Beneamata have managed to win only once in four away matches in the tournament so far.

3. Raul scored his 70th goal of the Champions League in the first leg at San Siro.

The HardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For:

Samuel Eto’o(Internazionale FC)

The Cameroon international is the leading goal scorer of this season’s Champions League with eight goals, sharing the feat with Barcelona’s Messi and Bayern Munich’s Mario Gomez. He is a big match player. Even if he doesn’t score, he’ll take the hardship of winning the ball against the defenders to set-up team mates. With Inter’s back to the wall, he should be motivated enough to get the best out of him. Samuel Eto’o is our player to watch out for. He is the key to any chance of a miracle.

The game changer!

The HardTackle’s Prediction:

Schalke 04 2-3 Internazionale FC

This match is expected to be a goal riot. Inter will probably attack right from the word go with avowed intent. Overtures of their defensive line can prove to be fatal for the Nerazzurri. Just like the last game, Schalke will tyr to make inroads through the trademark void left by the Inter defense. All in all, a game with plenty of goal bound movements and eventually Schalke to pip Inter on aggregate.