Looking Ahead to Schalke!
Could tomorrow be an occasion that comes back to haunt us?
The Champions League semi-final first leg, in Germany, against Schalke promises to be a fascinating affair.
Many are already, rather dangerously, suggesting that we`ve already booked a Wembley date against either Real Madrid or Barcelona on Saturday 28th May. But we`ve only to reflect on last season and a Champions League campaign that hit the rocks against another German side, Bayern Munich.
Plus, lurking amongst the ranks of Schalke players that are intent on furthering their own dream is the legend that is Raul. The Spaniard is the top scorer in Champions League football, with 71 goals, and is a player that was offered, by his agents, to Manchester United last summer when he left Real Madrid.
Raul has been involved, twice in quarter-finals ties whereby he`s driven us out of the competition and now playing for a less fashionable club, he`ll be doubly keen to deny us a chance to land a final place, on home soil.
Schalke are without doubt the under-dogs in this tie but last time out they put the current holders of the trophy, Inter Milan, to the sword and their manager Ralf Rangnick is sure his side will do well and has been quoted as remarking,
"We`re going to win both games."
"We`re not aiming for a 0-0. We want to win the game and will certainly play as we did at Inter at home."
"I mean nobody expected us to win 2-5 at Inter so we will try and win both games."
Schalke come into this game on the back of a defeat in the Bundesliga, losing 1-0 to Kaiserslautern at home. But it should be said that several key players were rested and Rangnick commented,
"If we had started the team we will start on Tuesday we would have had less chance of winning."
"I don`t know if it helps us to be under-dogs. It depends how we play our role. If we manage to play it as we did against Inter twice, I think we have a chance."
Naturally, Sir Alex Ferguson will be taking all this with a pinch of salt, the master of mind-games knows exactly what has to be done and will be looking for his side to go to Germany and keep it tight, if we can get an away goal, like at Chelsea in the previous round, all the better.
As for a starting eleven, we expect Vidic and Evra to return to bolster the defence and we wouldn`t be too surprised to see Giggs and Scholes in the middle. Up front, Berbatov with a groin strain, misses out to it`ll be Rooney and Hernandez.
It promises to be a thrilling tie!
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