Manuel Veth –
Schalke vs Manchester City – Wednesday, February 20, 20:00GMT/21:00CET – Arena AufSchalke, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
The situation is clear. Schalke are the underdogs against English giants Manchester City. The Royal Blues, in fact, are playing a season to forget and are sitting in 14th spot after matchday 22 of the Bundesliga.
With 23 points Schalke may be eight points clear of the dropzone. But at the same time, Schalke are part of a worrying trend. The Royal Blues have not won in their last four Bundesliga games and only a 4-1 victory in the DFB Pokal over Fortuna Düsseldorf somewhat bucks the trend.
In the Champions League Schalke advanced from what was at best a mediocre group that included Lokomotiv Moscow, Galatasaray and Porto. Schalke, in fact, have scored the fewest goals of all teams still in the competition.
Manchester City, in turn, have been the most prolific side with 16 goals. The Citizens are favourites for the match but are at the same time aware that the Champions League is a completely different proposition than national competitions and that underdogs can hurt favourites.
“We saw what can happen with Manchester United when they were ranked as far better than PSG. It is important to stay calm and prepare well,” Pep Guardiola said ahead of Wednesday’s matchup.
It is a typical Guardiola statement. The Spaniard likes to build up his opponents in order to keep his players focused. It is a technique that worked against Newport on the weekend where City easily advanced with a 4-1 victory despite playing on a rugby pitch.
Of course, Schalke are not Newport County, who play in the fourth division, but Manchester City should have enough quality to defeat the Royal Blues nonetheless. After all, Schalke have struggled all season and simply lack the squad depth and quality to go toe-to-toe with one of Europe’s biggest clubs.
Schalke vs Manchester City – Players to look out for:
Rabbi Matondo #14 – FC Schalke 04
Signed from Manchester City Rabbi Matondo could make his starting XI Champions League debut against his former club on Wednesday. The winger played 15 minutes against Gladbach on matchday 20 and was given almost the full 90 minutes in a 0-0 draw against Freiburg on Saturday. The Welsh international is supposed to add some much needed creativity to a Schalke attack that has been somewhat lacking in recent weeks.
Leroy Sané #19 – Manchester City
Leroy Sané is returning home. For the first time since leaving Schalke in the summer of 2016, the winger will be playing in Gelsenkirchen. Born in Essen Sané has become an important member of Guardiola’s squad and this season has scored eight goals and ten assists in 23 EPL games. A fast and dynamic winger Sané is the sort of player that can make a difference in any game he is involved in.
Schalke vs Manchester City – Match Stats
- Schalke’s last three UEFA Champions League campaigns have all ended in the round of 16 and they will be keen to make the most of home advantage as they welcome Manchester City for the first leg of their latest knockout tie.
- City have won two of the teams’ three previous fixtures, most recently a 2-0 success in Gelsenkirchen in the 2008/09 UEFA Cup group stage thanks to goals from Benjani and Stephen Ireland.
- Schalke are in the last 16 for the first time since 2014/15, when they lost 5-4 on aggregate to Real Madrid, going down 2-0 in the home first leg and bowing out despite a 4-3 success in Spain.
- The Citizens have won three of their last five games in Germany, losing only one; in contrast, they suffered five defeats in their first six visits, the exception that 2008 victory at Schalke.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Schalke vs Manchester City – 1-3
Schalke vs Manchester City – Lineups
Nübel – Oczipka, Nastasić, S. Sané, Caligiuri – Bentaleb, McKennie – Konoplyanka, Uth, Matondo – Kutucu
Head Coach: Domenico Tedesco
Ederson – Laporte, Otamendi, Stones, Walker – Gündogan, Fernandinho, D. Silva – Sané, Agüero, Sterling
Head Coach: Pep Guardiola
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.