Schalke vs Porto – Tuesday, September 18, 20:00BST/21:00 CEST – Arena auf Schalke, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
Ahead of the Champions League draw Schalke head coach Domenico Tedesco and sporting director Christian Heidel were hoping for one of the big European clubs. Placed in pot three Schalke could have faced the likes of Barcelona, Paris, Juventus, Manchester City or Napoli. But instead of those big name clubs, Schalke were handed a relatively easy group with the likes of Lokomotiv, Porto and Galatasaray.
A brief glimpse at the draw would suggest that Schalke would have an easy path through this group. But die Knappen had a terrible start to the Bundesliga season losing three out of three, putting on the pressure for the royal blues to get something tangible out of this group. In fact, in a group with Europe’s heavy hitters an early exit would be forgivable but placed in a group with teams from smaller European leagues the expectations are that Schalke will qualify.
History further places a burden on the team. Only once, in 2001/02, did Schalke fail to make it out of the group stage of the Champions League. More pressure on a side that was unable to gain confidence from the first three games in the Bundesliga.
Instead, the Champions League is now supposed to be the place for Schalke’s newly put together side to get going finally. Opening the UCL season against Porto may, in fact, help. Schalke like to play against Portuguese sides – in 2014/15 die Knappen managed to finish second behind Chelsea in a group that included Sporting and NK Maribor.
There is also history when it comes to Porto. It was Schalke who came out on top in the penalty shoot-out 11 seasons ago, after Kevin Kuranyi’s fourth-minute first-leg goal in Gelsenkirchen had been cancelled out by Lisandro López with only four minutes to play in Porto. The German side held their nerve in the shoot-out, however, converting all of their kicks to win 4-1.
“The team is 10o% ready. We are all disappointed after the first three league games, but we will ensure that the anticipation of playing in the Champions League will not get lost. We will not let this take away from us,” Tedesco told kicker on the weekend.
Porto, in the meantime, had a good start to the season. The 2017/18 champions of Portugal won three out of four and are fourth behind Benfica, Braga and Sporting in the league standings.
Furthermore, the Portuguese have positive memories when it comes to the Arena Auf Schalke. It was here that Porto, led by Jose Mourinho, won the 2004 Champions League. Current head coach Sergio Conceição was part of the squad but had to witness the final from the stands. Conceição also has decent memories from playing German sides. The former winger scored three goals at the 200o European Championships against Germany, eliminating die Nationalmannschaft and causing the biggest crisis in German football until this summer.
As for the game on Tuesday? Schalke are under pressure. On paper, the Germans should get out of this group, but the reality has not been kind to Domenico Tedesco. At the same time, the Champions League could be just the sort of distraction the club needs and three points could go a long way to calm some nerves in Gelsenkirchen.
Schalke vs Porto – Players to look out for:
Mark Uth #7 – Schalke
Mark Uth is among the players that have to do better in Gelsenkirchen. Signed on a free transfer from Hoffenheim this summer the forward was a typical Heidel transfer. Young, cheap and with plenty of talent. Uth is considered a potential candidate for the German national team, but lack of Champions League football has meant that Bundestrainer Joachim Löw has thus far overlooked the 27-year-old striker. That could change with some strong performances against the likes of Porto, Loko Moscow and Galatasaray.
Hector Herrera #16 – Porto
“The other day I was wondering if it would be possible to win the Champions League. It is getting ever more difficult, but dreams are part of life,” Hector Herrera told the media ahead of this match. Playing for Porto at least guarantees that Herrera plays Champions League on a yearly basis – the Portuguese side have qualified for 23 years in a row. But whether Porto have enough to win the trophy is somewhat doubtful. Even qualification from this group could be difficult. But should Porto get out of this group the Mexican midfielder will have, without a doubt, played a significant role. Herrera is the stabiliser in midfield and showed against Germany at the World Cup that he can control a match, even against overbearing opposition.
Schalke vs Porto – Match Stats
- It took penalties to separate the sides the last time they met, in the 2007/08 round of 16. Both have plenty of recent experience of reaching that stage and will be eager to make early inroads in a section that also includes Galatasaray and Lokomotiv Moskva.
- Bundesliga runners-up in 2017/18 – their highest league placing since 2009/10 – this is Schalke’s first UEFA Champions League group campaign since 2014/15, their third successive appearance.
- Semi-finalists in 2011, Schalke’s last three UEFA Champions League campaigns have all ended in the round of 16.
- Schalke have lost their last two home matches in the competition and won only one of their last five UEFA Champions League games in Gelsenkirchen (D1 L3).
- Schalke are, however, unbeaten in six European home fixtures (W4 D2).
- This trip will hold happy memories for Porto; Gelsenkirchen and the Arena Auf Schalke was the venue for their second European Cup triumph, José Mourinho’s side beating Monaco 3-0 there in 2004 final.
- Porto are in the UEFA Champions League for the 23rd season – the joint highest total ever alongside Real Madrid and Barcelona.
- The Portuguese side were also paired with German opponents in last season’s group stage, beating RB Leipzig 3-1 at home having lost 3-2 away. The latter defeat was their third in a row away to Bundesliga clubs.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Schalke vs Porto – 2-1
Schalke vs Porto – Lineups
Fährmann – Nastašić, Naldo, Sané – Mendyl, Bentaleb, Rudy, Caligiuri – Serdar – Uth, Burgstaller
Head Coach: Domenico Tedesco
Casillas – Alex Telles, Eder Militao, Felipe, Maxi Pereira – Sergio Oliveira, Herrera – Brahimi, Otavio – Aboubakar, Marega
Head Coach: Sergio Conceição
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga 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.