Schalke v Arsenal Preview
MATCH IN A SENTENCE: Schalke can seal their progression to the Round of 16 with a win on Tuesday over an Arsenal side that, with another loss combined with an Olympiacos win at home to Montpellier, would see their once-certain prospect of advancing to the knockout stages become rather more cloudy.
BREAKDOWN: More than a few eyebrows went up when Schalke claimed all three points at Arsenal two weeks ago. It wasn’t the win that was particularly surprising (Schalke are a good side), but rather the manner of it.
The Bundesliga outfit had little difficulty keeping their English opponents at bay, and when Klaas-Jan Huntelaar struck with 14 minutes remaining you just knew there was no way back for the Gunners. Ibrahim Afellay added a measure of insurance in the 86th minute.
That result, combined with a recent run that has seen Arsenal win only four of their last eight matches, has manager Arsene Wenger concerned with his side’s form. And he addressed the matter in his pre-match press conference on Monday.
“We are a bit concerned about our recent form,” he conceded. “We are not only concerned about the result against Manchester United but the manner in which we lost. Schalke are a very good team—we could see that from the first match...We want to respond and the best way to do so is by coming out with a good performance [Tuesday].”
Schalke, for their part, had gone unbeaten in eight matches in all competitions until their 3-2 defeat away to Hoffenheim on Saturday—a result that has caused manager Huub Stevens to consider making changes ahead of Arsenal’s visit to Veltins-Arena.
“We might change the team to bring in some fresher players,” he said. “We have left the last Bundesliga game behind us and are focusing on this Champions League match...We have to learn from our experiences. The match in Hoffenheim is something we have to learn from.
Stevens also put additional pressure on Schalke striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who has scored three matches in three Champions League matches so far this season but has only found the back of the net three times in nine Bundesliga matches.
ESSENTIALS: Schalke are still without Christoph Metzelder (adductor) and fellow defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos is also sidelined following an injury suffered in training.
Arsenal’s injury list continues to include goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianki, left-back Kieran Gibbs and attackers Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky. New to the therapist’s table is Aaron Ramsey (groin), and Wenger has also revealed that Theo Walcott will be unlikely to feature against Schalke.
Schalke midfielder Lewis Holtby, who has recently been linked with both Arsenal and Liverpool, thinks the Gunners will be itching for revenge in Gelsenkirchen. “I think that Arsenal are a little bit resentful about us stealing three points on their home territory,” he said, adding, “We only concentrate on [Tuesday]. The form of the day could be a deciding factor.”
KEY BATTLE: Plodding Arsenal left-back Andre Santos looks likely to be handed another start on Tuesday, which means his matchup against Jefferson Farfan will be absolutely vital. The Peru winger ripped the Brazilian to shreds last month, and given the 29-year-old’s performance against Manchester United on Saturday he will surely be on a short leash against Schalke.
FORMATIONS: Stevens will deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation fronted by Huntelaar with Farfan, Holtby and Afellay playing just behind him. Wenger will also go 4-2-3-1, and Gervinho, Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski will line up in support of lone striker Olivier Giroud.
BETLINE: Schalke 5/6; Draw 11/4; Arsenal 16/5. Schalke lost their last Champions League home match against an English side when they fell 2-0 to Manchester United in 2011.