- Posted by Geoff Reid
- On May 4, 2011
- 0 Comments
- Geoff Reid, UCL 2010/11
By Geoff Reid
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI FINAL SECOND LEG PREVIEW: MANCHESTER UNITED VS SCHALKE FROM OLD TRAFFORD, MANCHESTER (United leads 2-0 on agg.)
Being two goals down on aggregate heading into the second leg away from home, can Schalke come back and cause an upset? The odds are against them, and had it not been for goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, they might be down by more after he was easily Schalke’s best player in the first leg keeping United at bay many times. The fact of the matter is Schalke couldn’t cope with United in Gelsenkirchen. They have clearly missed Benedikt Howedes at the back who has proven all so important to them since he’s been out due to a abdominal strain. Christoph Metzelder is the most experienced in the back line, and has so far at least, looked a shadow of himself.
The big boost for the German side is that for the first time in two months Dutch striker Klass-Jan Huntelaar is available for selection after being out injured. There is no way to tell if he will take any part in tonight’s match, but it is believed he has made the trip with the team. It honestly can’t hurt since they have a two goal deficit to overturn. Jefferson Farfan, Edu, and Spanish legend Raul were unable to really trouble United’s back line in the first leg, so Huntelaar could offer them something different, especially with everything on the line and the last chance of Schalke winning anything this season. Plus, qualifying for Europe at all next season will not happen, let alone the Champions League so it’s now or nothing for Ralf Ragnick’s side. Scoring five goals at the San Siro against defending champion Inter Milan will give Schalke hope that they can salvage the tie.
For the hosts tonight, Sir Alex Ferguson has been in the game long enough to understand having a 2-0 lead on aggregate can be very dangerous, especially if the visitors get an early away goal which could put the tie on a knife’s edge. After this weekend and dropping points to bitter rivals Arsenal in league play, the Premier League title race is blown wide open again, which means a potential distraction for the red half of Manchester. Keep in mind all four teams competing in the semi finals over the last two days lost in league play this past weekend. With a two goal cushion at the moment, we should expect Michael Owen to get the nod up front in place of Javier Hernandez with this game being sandwiched in between the Arsenal defeat, and a big match to say the least against second placed Chelsea this weekend coming up.
For the hosts, England striker Wayne Rooney missed training and will be reassessed today if he will take any part, or be saved for the clash against Chelsea. Ryan Giggs missed the Arsenal match due to flu, but should be good to go for today, and clearly United missed him over the weekend. Dimitar Berbatov, and Anders Lindegaard should return from long layoffs, as will Scottish midfielder Darren Fletcher due to illness. For the visitors, center back Howedes will have a late fitness test after missing the last three matches in a row, while Huntelaar should go through the same. Ragnick has come out and said he will not take unnecessary risks, and both players must be fit to play any part which is understandable, but in this situation, if they’re both good to go you would think they both must be used in some capacity. Mario Gavranovic, Christoph Moritz, and Christian Pander are all out.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Schalke (United win 4-1 on aggregate)