Manchester City would be aiming to continue their strong form in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 with a trip to Veltins-Arena when they face FC Schalke 04.
One of Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 fixtures would have English champions Manchester City face Bundesliga strugglers FC Schalke 04 at the Veltins-Arena.
Currently on top of the Premier League table, Manchester City are on the quest for the unprecedented quadruple. The Citizens are in the Carabao Cup final and in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. However, the most coveted trophy for them would still be the elusive Champions League.
Manchester City finished on top of their group without facing much resistance. Only a defeat to Lyon ensured that they didn’t go through the group stage unbeaten.
Schalke, on the other hand, had no problem in finishing second in Group D, behind FC Porto. Their Bundesliga campaign looks extremely dismal, though. Die Konigsblauen currently sit 14th on the table, with European football looking like a distant dream, although they should avoid relegation.
However, Domenico Tedesco’s men can’t be written off just yet in the Champions League, having not been beaten in their last nine European home games, winning 6 of those. Although they are lacking a formidable attack, the Germans have all the elements of an underdog victory on home turf.
The Hard Tackle now takes a look at the finer details of the David versus Goliath game.
Team News & Tactics
FC Schalke 04
Domenico Tedesco has a few injury concerns ahead of the match, with his squad being without Breel Embolo, Alessandro Schopf and Benjamin Stambouli. The biggest pinch in their lineup though, would be the absence of Omar Mascarell due to suspension.
Ralf Fahrmann, who should lead the side and start in goal, will play a key role in determining the outcome of the game. Daniel Caligiuri and Bastian Oczipka ought to be the full-backs, while Salif Sane will partner former Manchester City defender Matija Nastasic at the heart of the Schalke defence.
Nabil Bentaleb and Sebastian Rudy should form the midfield double pivot that will hope to keep a check on Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva. The onus in attack, meanwhile, will be on Yevhen Konoplyanka and Mark Uth, who will be aiming to feed Schalke striker Guido Burgstaller.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Fahrmann; Caligiuri, Nastasic, Sane, Oczipka; Rudy, Bentaleb; Serdar, Uth, Konoplyanka; Burgstaller
With the Carabao Cup final on Sunday against Chelsea, it would be quite interesting to see how Pep Guardiola would line his men up against Schalke.
Vincent Kompany isn’t slated to make his return to the side anytime soon as he continues to recover from the muscle injury he contracted at the start of the year. Claudio Bravo wouldn’t be seen in the dugout either, but his absence would hardly be felt with Ederson’s fiery form. Meanwhile, the likes of John Stones, Benjamin Mendy and Gabriel Jesus miss out as well
With Stones and Kompany unavailable, the baton in defense would primarily be carried by Nicolas Otamendi and Aymeric Laporte. Kyle Walker should continue at right-back and Oleksandr Zinchenko is expected to fill in for Danilo, who is likely to be reserved for the cup final against Chelsea this weekend.
Fernandinho is the glue of this Manchester City side and should play the Anchor Man role, while Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva, fresh from the rest they received in the game against Newport County, ought to replace Phil Foden and David Silva.
Riyad Mahrez is expected to drop down to the bench, with Raheem Sterling taking his place, while Sergio Aguero is slated to lead the line for Manchester City in place of Gabriel Jesus. Leroy Sane is expected to be the homecoming star in the fixture, even though he played the full 90 minutes game against Newport County.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Zinchenko; de Bruyne, Fernandinho, Bernardo Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Sane
- Schalke and Manchester City are locking horns with each other for the fourth time after meeting in the Cup Winners’ Cup way back in 1970 and the UEFA Cup more recently in 2008.
- Schalke have won only three of their last eight UEFA Champions League games in Gelsenkirchen (D2 L3), conceding 18 goals. But, they are unbeaten in nine home European fixtures (W6 D3)
- No Schalke player scored more than 1 goal or assisted more than once in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.
- The Royal Blues had a remarkable tally of 4 clean sheets in the group stage. Only Borrusia Dortmund surpassed them, with 5 clean sheets.
- Manchester City are unbeaten in their last seven games against German clubs (W6 D1), not losing a game since a 1-0 defeat at Bayern Munich in September 2014.
Player to Watch
Aguero would be hungry for goals after being rested against Newport County. Currently the top scorer in the Premier League, the Argentine hasn’t quite made his mark in the European arena, finding the back of the net just 28 times in 50 outings.
But, having scored a hat-trick each against Arsenal and Chelsea in his last two matches, Schalke’s defence might not pose much of an issue for the 30-year-old, who is looking to clinch his first Champions League trophy.
FC Schalke 04 0-2 Manchester City
Manchester City are unbeaten in their last 7 UEFA Champions games against Bundesliga sides, and have been given what looks like a cakewalk of a Round of 16 tie, with Schalke not enjoying the best of seasons. Furthermore, the Royal Blues have fallen short quite a number of times at this point of the competition previously, having failed to go past the Round of 16 on each of their last three attempts.
The hosts’ decent defensive record in Germany for European face-offs does at least offer a little ray of hope that they can keep things from going berserk ahead of the return leg next month. But, City should still fancy their chances of keeping a clean sheet and perhaps taking home multiple away goals.