Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Champions League - 10 things you need to know about Schalke!!!

Schalke 04 have slipped under the radar for many in the Champions League so we get the definitive rundown on Manchester United's semi-final opponents from Eurosport Germany's Dirk Adam!!!

Schalke have won every home match in the Champions League this season. How intimidating is the Veltins-Arena?
The Veltins-Arena is one of the most impressive stadiums in Germany. You’ve got over 60,000 fans there and they make so much noise. The noise level is very high because Schalke's fans are very enthusiastic.
Schalke are only mid-table in Bundesliga but have reached the last four of Europe’s premier competition. Why has their domestic and European form been so different?
This weekend they played only with their B team against Kaiserslautern and lost 1-0 as Ralf Rangnick is focused only on the Champions League. The Bundesliga is no longer the main priority because Schalke can’t qualify for Europe through the League and can’t be relegated. Under Felix Magath the team simply underperformed.
Why do relatively modest German teams - Dortmund in 1997, Leverkusen in 2002 - thrive in the Champions League?
Here in Germany we had only one big club in the past: Bayern Munich. Now it’s a little bit different. Many other clubs are also very strong because of their clever transfers and the new youth concept after the disaster in the 2000 European Championships. That has worked very well for Schalke with Manuel Neuer, for example.
Ralf Rangnick has only been the coach for less than a month. Have the team improved with him in charge?
Yes. The whole team works together again after they feared Felix Magath. The atmosphere is pretty good and some players have been given a new chance under Rangnick. Schalke play attractive football and some of the credit does have to go to Magath who bought in new players like Raul.
Is Raul still as good as ever?
Raul is better that ever. He’s a perfect example for any professional. The Spaniard bought a house in Gelsenkirchen and he’s doing his all for the club. He’s still a brilliant player with a perfect fitness level. Some days ago Rangnick pointed out that Raul is in very good shape.
Most English fans know about Manuel Neuer, Christoph Metzelder and Raul but who are the other key players?
One of the best players against Inter was the Brazilian Edu. He had no real chance under Magath because he played in the wrong position. But under Rangnick he plays in the middle of the attack and that’s perfect for him. You’ve also Benedikt Hoewedes, who’s a very young player who Bayern Munich are very interested in. Other good players are Alexander Baumjohann, Jose Manuel Jurado and Jefferson Farfan. And please don’t forget Klaas-Jan Huntelaar when he’s fit.
Who are the weak links in the team?
They have a very good keeper with Neuer, but sometimes the defence is not great. If Christoph Metzelder is not in the best shape he makes some mistakes. And Hoewedes is very young and sometimes a little bit inexperienced.
Will Schalke be particularly attacking at home?
I think so. They will get one goal because the perfect result would be 1-0. Raul can score always a goal and that will be the plan. Schalke hopes for one or two good chances and Raul has to score. Or Edu… so they have some different options.
Do you think Schalke have any chance of qualifying?
Schalke clearly is the underdog against Manchester United. But in my opinion the have a 50-50 chance because in the two games against Inter they were very strong. In this shape they can beat every team - including Manchester United. Qualifying for the final is not impossible.
Would you recommend that our readers book a two-week holiday this summer in Gelsenkirchen?
They have beautiful coal mines! On May 14 there’s also an “Oldie party” at Schalke… so Ryan Giggs can come along.

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