UCL Preview: Schalke on guard against Valencia at home
German side FC Schalke have the edge over Spain’s Valencia CF as the two teams clash at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen on Wednesday. A couple of weeks earlier Raul Gonzalez returned to his home country to haunt Unai Emery’s side at the Mestalla. The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw with the Germans having the advantage of scoring the all important away goal. Yet, high flying Valencia would provide Felix Magath’s boys a tough night at the Ruhr Valley as both sides hope to qualify for the last eight of the UEFA Champions League.
Raul, Schalke’s record goal scorer in Europe, has warned his German team mates of a serious backlash from Valencia come Wednesday night. The former Real Madrid player and hero was quoted by uefa.com as saying, “I expect them to be even more dangerous in comparison to the first leg. I think they have great players who can play great matches away too. Although we have a small advantage going into the second leg, it’s another 90 minutes in which Valencia have the ability to turn things around and score goals here.”
Raul enjoyed his return to Spain and was even more delighted when he surpassed AC Milan‘s Filippo Inzaghi’s 70 European goals by scoring his new club’s equalizer at the Mestalla to cancel out Roberto Soldado’s opener. But according to the legendary striker, all good work done in Spain would be of no use if the Germans do not put it across Valencia at home.
Taking into account the mentality of the Valencia camp, young goalkeeper Vicente Guaita believes it would be a mistake to write off his team in Gelsenkirchen. The 23-year old has told reporters, “We live on in hope – no way does this result mean the door is closed on our chances. If anyone has written us off they are making a big mistake. We’ll go to Germany, play to win and make sure we do our jobs to our utmost. As far as this match goes, you could say we are disappointed we didn’t win – the victory was there for us.”
“But while it doesn’t feel good to draw at home in Europe, I think the key thing was that the team were totally up for it,” he added. “We were in the game and it was still more important that we didn’t lose. Thanks to that we have 90 minutes over at their stadium and I can promise we are going to make it very difficult for them.”
Meanwhile, Valencia’s chances of progressing to the next round have suffered a blow with the injury to key forward Aritz Aduriz. The 30-year old former Real Mallorca player would be out for four weeks with an ankle sprain thus ruling him out for the trip to Germany.
Previous meetings (Champions League)
Quarter-Final First Leg (04.03.97) Schalke 2 Valencia 0
Quarter-Final Second Leg (18.03.97) Valencia 1 Schalke 1
Group stage: (18.09.07) Schalke 0 Valencia 1
Group stage: (28.11.07) Valencia 0 Schalke 0
Last 16 First Leg: (15.02.11) Valencia 1 Schalke 1
Schalke’s home form in Europe is imperious as they have won their last three games at the Veltins Arena and five wins have come out of six. Record against Spanish sides is not to write home about with just a single win in last ten matches.
Valencia have drawn their last four games against German opponents, including a 4-4 draw away to Werder Bremen in last season’s Europa League. But they have won only one in the last thirteen visits to Germany.
Key players and prediction
Felix Magath’s side have the upper hand yet Unai Emery’s Valencia would be able to counter the German threat with their sheer determination and European pedigree. Raul Gonzalez and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer are the players to look out for in the German camp while Roberto Soldado, Raul’s former team mate at Real Madrid, would be the player in all likelihood to make the difference at Gelsenkirchen. This could be a mammoth tie with penalties on the cards if the match ends 1-1 in normal and extra time.
Possible Starting XI s
Schalke: Neuer, Uchida, Edu, Howedes, Metzelder, Kluge, Matip, Farfan, Jurado, Raul, Huntelaar.
Valencia: Guaita, Miguel, Navarro, Costa, Mathieu, Topal, Domingues, Banega, Tino, Soldado, Joaquin.