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31.03.2008 18:32

Optimistic but with respect for Barça

Roger Bogunyà (enviat especial)

Around the Veltins-Arena there is a mixture of optimism about an historic quarter-final tie for Schalke 04 and respect for Barça, a team the Germans still think they can beat.

With key players sidelined (Rakitic, Varela, Jones and Zé Roberto), a less than impressive history in European competitions (a single UEFA Cup title back in 1997) and the worst numbers for any of the eight teams remaining in the competition, Schalke is getting ready for its quarter-final tie with Barça.

There’s still hope

It’s a far from ideal situation for the Germans but they are still hopeful and believe, with just a few hours to go before the first leg, that they can knock Barça out of Europe. Recent improved form in the League and luck in the Champions League when they beat Porto in the last 16 on penalties has given them a boost. “We don’t need any more motivation for Tuesday’s game because we’re already well up for it. Everyone’s really motivated and we’ll be going out onto the pitch with loads of self-belief,” commented Mirko Slomka, Schalke 04’s coach, who says he knows where Barça’s weakness lies.

Barça’s defence has “problems”

According to Slomka Barça “are having problems in defence as they’ve let in 15 goals in their last seven matches”. So in spite of the lack of creativity in his team his strategy is to try to hit the Catalans hard at the back through Schalke’s main attacking force Asamoah and Kuranyi.

Respect for Barça and belief in Neuer

Slomka said he felt great respect for Barça’s attacking strength, as “even though Ronaldinho, Deco and Messi are missing, they’ve still got Krkic, Eto'o and Henry”. But the Germans are by no means afraid. At their last training session before the match, fans were keeping a sharp eye on the Royal Blues’ goalkeeper Neuer as he was coached by Oliver Reck, legendary ex-keeper and current assistant coach at Schalke 04, and who made two crucial saves in the penalty shoot-out in the last round against Porto. According to one loyal fan, “He’s the best German keeper around at the moment. He makes some amazing saves and we want to hang onto him for as long as possible.” People around her nodded in agreement. They believe they can beat Barça.
Optimistic but with respect for Barça
Nearly 1,400 Barça fans at the Veltins-Arena
1,384 Barça members and supporters will be cheering on their team in the first leg of Barcelona’s Champions League quarter final in Gelsenkirchen. As usual members had priority when it came to buying tickets for the game with each seat costing €62.

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