So far this season at the Veltins-Arena, Schalke have conjured impressive victories over established Champions League sides including: Valencia, Benfica and Lyon. Their record of having won all of their home European matches this season, suggests that Schalke will provide a very tough opposition to Manchester United in Germany on Tuesday night.
In addition to that in talismanic striker Raul, they can boast they have the best goalscorer in the history of the European Cup - now Champions League- within their ranks. Raul, who won the champions league three times with Real Madrid has scored a sensational 71 goals in the competition since making his debut in 1995. To put that figure into perspective, that is fifteen goals more than second placed Ruud Van Nistelrooy has scored in the competition.
Despite falling behind to a spectacular volley from Inter midfielder Dejan Stankovic in the first leg of the quarter final, Schalke’s resurgence was exceptional. A very fluent and attacking style proved too much for an Inter Milan defence, which was struggling to cope with the raw pace of Jefferson Farfan combined with the power of Brazillian striker Edu. Add in the attacking instincts of Raul and the ageing Inter Milan defence must have felt as if a runaway freight train had hit them in the second half at the San Siro.
In Manuel Neuer, Schalke have a reliable pair of hands. There has been much speculation that Neuer will be joining a top English club this Summer, recently fuelled by the German No 1 announcing his desire to leave the club at the end of the current season. Sir Alex Ferguson just may well be keeping tabs on the performance of Neuer tonight before making a call on the successor to the ever-reliable Edwin Van Der Sar.
At the back Schalke have a strong combination of experience boosted by the presence of Christoph Metzelder and Ghanian international Hans Sarpei aswell as youth with the inclusion of vice-captain Benedikt Howedes. A possible worry for coach, Ralf Rangnick, could be Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez exploiting the lack of pace of former Real Madrid defender Metzelder who at 31 has struggled with injuries in recent years.
However, despite the great European success this season, Schalke’s league affair has been a great disappointment in comparison to the runners up position that they achieved last season. The royal blues currently occupy the 10th spot of the Bundesliga and their poor form at the beginning of the season had resulted in the sacking of respected manager Felix Magath. In came Ralf Rangnick, who was widely praised for the success he had achieved over recent seasons at Bundesliga rivals Hoffenheim. Although results remain inconsistent on the domestic front, the success of Schalke’s season will very much depend upon whether they can reach an unprecedented Champions League final and possibly even add their name to the prestigious trophy- which no German side has won since Bayern Munich in 2001.