Before the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie between Schalke and Galatasaray all the momentum appeared to be with the Turkish champions. But a 1-1 draw in Istanbul gave Schalke a slight edge and since then all the momentum has been with the German side.
On a dreadful run of form heading into the tie, Schalke have won all three of their Bundesliga matches since the first leg, including an impressive 3-1 victory over rivals Borussia Dortmund in the Revierderby on Saturday. Interim coach Jens Keller, who has recovered from a troubling start after replacing Huub Stevens, is desperate for his side to take their form into the return match with Galatasaray.
“We have produced some great performances recently and must carry that into the match tomorrow,” he said, according to UEFA’s Web site. “We want to keep experiencing the euphoria of winning as well as the support of our fans. “
The win over Dortmund didn’t come without cost, however, as key striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has been ruled out with a knee injury.
Keller admits heading into the clash without their leading scorer is a big blow.
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“Losing Huntelaar will make life difficult for us, but we have been in this situation before,” he explained. “Feeling sorry for ourselves will do us no good.”
In contrast to Schalke, Galatasaray have struggled since relinquishing a lead in the first leg. There was optimism aplenty three weeks ago following the arrival of previous Champions League winners Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba.
But Fatih Terim’s outfit have won just once in three games in the league and suffered a frustrating 1-0 home loss to Genclerbirligi on Friday in which Hamit Altintop twice struck the woodwork and Drogba missed a penalty.
Altintop also struck the frame of the goal in the first match with Schalke, and Terim is understandably hoping for better luck in Gelsenkirchen.
“I have great faith in my players,” he said. “They have prepared very well for the game and are full of confidence. We want to win tomorrow and we are ready to give everything it takes to do so. I believe there is a very good chance we will leave Schalke with a victory. I also hope we have better luck this time and avoid hitting the woodwork so often.”
Defender Dany Nounkeu is set to return from a hamstring injury for Galatasaray, but Johan Elmander and Tomas Ujfalusi remain absent.
As well as Huntelaar, Schalke will also be unable to call upon their goal-scorer from the first leg, Jermain Jones, through suspension. Ibrahim Afellay, Ciprian Marcia and Kyriakos Papadopoulos all remain on the injured list.
D: Uchida, Howedes, Matip, Fuchs
M: Hoger, Neustadter
Farfan, Draxler, Bastos
D: Eboue, Nounkeu, Kaya, Riera
M: Altintop, Selcuk, Melo, Sneijder
F: Burak, Drogba
Prediction: Schalke were superb against Dortmund, with the likes of Julian Draxler and Jefferson Farfan looking in fine form. That duo, coupled with January signing Michel Bastos should also enjoy plenty of success against Galatasaray, especially if the visitors are forced to chase a goal late on.
The loss of Huntelaar, though, certainly improves Galatasaray’s chances of progress. Not only can the Dutchman be relied upon to take his chances, but he also provides a focal point to the attack. Teemu Pukki will struggle to prove an adequate replacement in either regard.
But Galatasaray need to score and they will be encouraged by the fact that Schalke have kept just one clean sheet in their last 19 matches. With Drogba and Burak Yilmaz, who has seven goals to his name in this season’s competition, Terim’s side should get the away goal required.
However, even without Huntelaar, Schalke could still have too much against a suspect Galatasaray back line.
Schalke 2-1 Galatasaray
Where to watch: The second leg of the UEFA Champions League round-of-16 tie will kick off from Veltins-Arena at 3.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Soccer Plus, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.