Champions League

Schalke focus on Euro task

2014-12-09 13:34
Schalke celebrate (AFP)

Berlin - Schalke are resurgent in the Bundesliga under coach Roberto Di Matteo but in the Champions League on Wednesday they must win and hope for a favour elsewhere to reach the knock-out phase.

Schalke may have won three Bundesliga matches in succession but know nothing less than a victory away to Maribor Wednesday will give them a chance of reaching the Champions League knock-out stage.

Maribor are out of the Champions League but are unbeaten at home in the competition this season and, with third-place and the Europa League spot not beyond them, they are not lacking motivation to win.

Schalke have to balance the threat of being eliminated from Europe altogether with a defeat while pushing for the win which could see them pip Sporting Lisbon to second.

But they also need to hope Sporting lose their match away to Chelsea to open the door.

"I'm not thinking about that," Di Matteo said. "We will look after the game at what the situation is."

Di Matteo has a rich history with Chelsea having won two FA Cups, a League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup there as a player before coaching the team to the Champions League and FA Cup double in 2012.

"My experience from England is that there are no friendly games," he said. "Chelsea will definitely try to win."

Di Matteo made a relatively slow start at Schalke having been appointed in September with performances picking up only slowly.

But a change in system to 3-5-2 has brought explosive victories over Wolfsburg, Mainz and Stuttgart, even if the side did crash to a disastrous 5-0 home loss to Chelsea in the previous Champions League game.

"We invest a lot of time in the new system," defender Jan Kirchhoff said. "The work is beginning to pay off."

Kirchhoff is regularly at the centre of the three-man back line but it is the attack which has grabbed the headlines in the recent run of improved form.

While midfield stars such as Kevin-Prince Boateng and Julian Draxler are out with injury, strikers Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting have kept firing goals.

Modern football has seen a move away from two traditional strikers leading the line up front but the tactic has paid dividends so far.

"We are unpredictable if we have two strikers," Di Matteo said. "That makes us dangerous."

Huntelaar bagged a hat-trick against Mainz two weeks ago to take his scoring record for the club to 101 goals in 158 competitive games. No other Bundesliga striker has found the net as often as the Dutchman in 2014.

And Cameroon international Choupo-Moting, now 25, is finding the consistency that eluded him with previous clubs. He bagged a treble in last Saturday's 4-0 romp at Stuttgart.

"With such a victory in the bag you can be full of confidence for the next game," he said. "Wednesday is very important."

 

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Fixtures
Tuesday, 22 October 2019
Shakhtar Donetsk v Dinamo Zagreb, Metalist Stadium 18:55
Atletico Madrid v Bayer Leverkusen, Wanda Metropolitano 18:55
Juventus v Lokomotiv Moscow, Allianz Stadium 21:00
Manchester City v Atalanta, Etihad Stadium 21:00
Club Brugge v Paris SG, Jan Breydel Stadion 21:00
Olympiacos v Bayern Munchen, Karaiskakis Stadium 21:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Red Star Belgrade, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium 21:00
Galatasaray v Real Madrid, Turk Telekom Arena 21:00
Wednesday, 23 October 2019
Ajax v Chelsea, Amsterdam ArenA 18:55
RB Leipzig v Zenit St. Petersburg, Red Bull Arena 18:55
Benfica v Lyon, da Luz 21:00
Slavia Prague v Barcelona, Eden Arena 21:00
Genk v Liverpool, Luminus Arena 21:00
Red Bull Salzburg v Napoli, Red Bull Arena 21:00
Inter Milan v Borussia Dortmund, San Siro 21:00
Lille v Valencia, Stade Pierre-Mauroy 21:00
Tuesday, 05 November 2019
Barcelona v Slavia Prague, Camp Nou 19:55
Zenit St. Petersburg v RB Leipzig, Saint Petersburg Stadium 19:55
Liverpool v Genk, Anfield 22:00
Lyon v Benfica, Groupama Stadium 22:00
Valencia v Lille, Mestalla 22:00
Napoli v Red Bull Salzburg, San Paolo 22:00
Borussia Dortmund v Inter Milan, Signal Iduna Park 22:00
Chelsea v Ajax, Stamford Bridge 22:00
Wednesday, 06 November 2019
Bayern Munchen v Olympiacos, Allianz Arena 19:55
Lokomotiv Moscow v Juventus, Lokomotiv Stadium 19:55
Atalanta v Manchester City, Atleti Azzurri d'Italia 22:00
Bayer Leverkusen v Atletico Madrid, BayArena 22:00
Dinamo Zagreb v Shakhtar Donetsk, Maksimir Stadium 22:00
Paris SG v Club Brugge, Parc des Princes 22:00
Real Madrid v Galatasaray, Santiago Bernabeu 22:00
Red Star Belgrade v Tottenham Hotspur, Stadion Rajko Mitic 22:00
Tuesday, 26 November 2019
Lokomotiv Moscow v Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Stadium 19:55
Galatasaray v Club Brugge, Turk Telekom Arena 19:55
Juventus v Atletico Madrid, Allianz Stadium 22:00
Atalanta v Dinamo Zagreb, Atleti Azzurri d'Italia 22:00
Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk, Etihad Stadium 22:00
Real Madrid v Paris SG, Santiago Bernabeu 22:00
Red Star Belgrade v Bayern Munchen, Stadion Rajko Mitic 22:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Olympiacos, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium 22:00
Wednesday, 27 November 2019
Valencia v Chelsea, Mestalla 19:55
Zenit St. Petersburg v Lyon, Saint Petersburg Stadium 19:55
Liverpool v Napoli, Anfield 22:00
Barcelona v Borussia Dortmund, Camp Nou 22:00
Slavia Prague v Inter Milan, Eden Arena 22:00
Genk v Red Bull Salzburg, Luminus Arena 22:00
RB Leipzig v Benfica, Red Bull Arena 22:00
Lille v Ajax, Stade Pierre-Mauroy 22:00
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