Schalke have been dealt with the task of knocking out Premier League champions Manchester City from Europe as the German outfit look to upset the odds. These two aren’t strangers to each other with the pair facing off in the then UEFA Cup 11 years ago where City ran out 2-0 winners.
Domenico Tedesco’s side have endured a poor domestic season, currently sitting in 14th spot in the Bundesliga but they’ll be eager to put this behind them as they look to push on in the Champions League. Manchester City, on the other hand, come into the clash high on confidence with Pep Guardiola’s side currently sitting in second spot in the Premier League as well as being in the Carabao Cup final alongside the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Schalke will be without Steven Skrzybski, Alessandro Schopf and Benjamin Stambouli who are all sidelined with injuries, as is long-term absentee Breel Embolo. Rabbi Matondo could feature against his former employers as he looks to help Schalke pull off an upset. The visitors come into the clash with injuries to John Stones and Gabriel Jesus.
The Royal Blues’ biggest downfall this season has been their inability to score and this is reflected by wing-back Daniel Caligiuri being their top goalscorer with just four goals. However, fortunes could be changing for the hosts with the addition of young prospect Ahmed Kutucu who has been promoted to the senior side. Kutucu has so far managed to net on two occasions including an impressive goal against Bayern Munich.
With the Premier League title race possibly seen as more important by Guardiola & Co. an early Champions League exit could suit them. However, City fans will be desperate to see their side conquer Europe following fairly poor continental performances in recent seasons. Former Borussia Dortmund and current Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan is well aware of City’s failure in the competition and revealed: “I think we have experienced a lot in the Champions League in recent years, not all of it positive of course. We should have won it at least once. So, as you can imagine, there is a very big drive within us to do something in the Champions League.”
Tedesco is under no illusions and he knows how tough the tie will be but he is keen to put on a show for the fans who have been left disappointed with performances a number of times this season (quotes via Uefa.com): “There’s nothing like a Champions League knockout match against one of the world’s best. We have worked hard to be able to play in a game like this. By logic, we are in with a chance. Of course, we aren’t favourites, but we have made it to this round [on merit]. Manchester City have an extremely strong team and we need to be strong. We owe it to ourselves and to our fans.
“City are very structured in their phases of play. Every player knows what the others are doing. They are particularly good in the ‘number eight’ position. Yet even if you do your job well, it can make you vulnerable in some respects. Any team can pay the price [against them].”
With Schalke enduring a poor campaign so far and City keen on European success, this all points towards an away win especially with Schalke struggling to perform in front of their own fans this season.