After an easy win against West Brom on Saturday we travel to Schalke for an important Champions league clash.
After the dropped points in Maribor last time out in the competition we cannot afford a defeat against Schalke, as that would move them level on points with us, but more importantly they would come above us if we finished on the same points as they would have the better head to head after drawing with us 1-1 in our first match of the group stage.
Schalke looked an extremely well organised side in that fixture, much better than when we faced them last season. They were well worth a point and dictated how we played going forward, making us play sideways, and using a high pressing tactic that restricted our balls into Drogba upfront.
Since that earlier meeting they have replaced their manager, and the new incumbent is none other than Roberto Di Matteo. A man who obviously has great experience in this competition having guided us to the trophy in 2012!
On the basis of the managerial change it is hard to take any markers from the home tie against them, although it is likely Di Matteo will use the same 4-2-3-1 shape they lined up against us with at the Bridge. Schalke’s results have improved since Di Matteo took charge and they are slowly climbing the table as a result of becoming more consistent. They recorded a creditable 3-2 win against second placed side Wolfsburg at the weekend, moving Schalke up to seventh in the Bundesliga table. This has mainly been based on home form. They are unbeaten at the Veltins arena and have the third best home form in the league.
As previously mentioned they lie second, three points behind us in our Champions league group, having drawn with us and Maribor, and beaten Sporting at home but losing away.
We convincingly beat Schalke home and away in the group stage last season, where they looked exceptional vulnerable on the counter attack, but, like now, possessed dangerous players on the attack. Di Matteo has shored they’re backline up, and it will be a tough proposition to get a result there. A draw would realistically be a decent result for us as it would leave us three points clear of them going into the last match, so another draw at home to Sporting on the final group stage match day would be enough for us to top the group. It would be nice to have it sewn up before that though.
In addition to last season, we also faced Schalke in the 07-08 group stage, drawing 0-0 away and winning 2-0 at home. This will therefore be our third trip to the Veltins to face Schalke, but our fourth in total, as we played Besiktas there in the 03-04 group stage as it was deemed unsafe to play in Turkey. This was also a match we won, so we are so far unbeaten in Gelsenkirchen.
Players to watch out for include the extremely talented youngsters Julien Draxler, probably their biggest threat in the first match, but was absent from the match day squad against Wolfsburg so may not feature, and Max Meyer, another attacking midfielder, with great balance on the ball and vision to match. Klaas Jan Huntelaar is a proven goal scorer at this level, and will lead the line.