A 2-0 win in London, courtesy of goals from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Ibrahim Afellay, earned the Royal Blues what for many observers may have been something of a surprise success. For those who know the Bundesliga and the Gelsenkirchen-based club better however, victory over the Gunners was far from unexpected.
Champions League pedigree
Schalke reached the semi-finals in their last Champions League campaign two seasons ago, having made the quarter-finals on their previous outing. They thus have recent pedigree aplenty in Europe's elite club competition, and are its sixth-strongest side on current form, right on the shoulder of Ruhr district rivals Borussia Dortmund. All of which does not of course automatically add up to a second-straight conquest of Arsene Wenger’s Europe-hardened side, which includes Germany internationals Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski.
“We need to ensure the next three games end positively for us and we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves,” said Farfan, who has bagged three goals in the Bundesliga but is yet to break his duck in Europe this season. The pacy winger's caution has less to do with Schalke’s performance Thames-side than with Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at Hoffenheim, which showed what can happen when concentration is not maxed-out. “It’s important that we prove ourselves in the coming games and get more wins,” he stressed on the club website.
Cards on the table
To that end, the 28-year-old Peru international would not object to a repeat of the 90 minutes in England a fortnight ago. “We showed concentration from the beginning,” he surmised. “We didn’t create all that many chances in the first half, but passed the ball better after the break. It was only logical that we would cause problems and from there we went on to victory.” There is a mixture of caution and optimism, then, in the Royal Blue camp. On the one hand, Schalke know that they can beat Arsenal, but on the other, the London outfit now know, if they did not before, precisely whom they are dealing with.
“With our fans behind us, we want to show who's the lord of the manor,” German international midfielder Lewis Holtby asserted. “Our win [at the Emirates Stadium] has given us lots of self-confidence. Arsenal now know what we are capable of.” Coach Huub Stevens is pondering ways of confusing his counterpart Arsene Wenger, who will take his seat on the bench at the Veltins Arena after serving out a three-match touchline ban, with changes on the agenda. “That has nothing to do with the Hoffenheim game, but with the general freshness of the players,” said the Dutch tactician, who incidentally was at the Schalke helm the last time they faced Arsenal at home, and won 3-1. Wenger was also in charge of the opposition on that evening back in 2001.
Papadopoulos good to go
One player the hosts will after all more than likely have at their disposal is Kyriakos Papadopoulos. The imposing Greek centre back completed Monday's afternoon training session, despite having been "unable to head the ball on Sunday" (Stevens) after picking up a cut above the eye at Hoffenheim.
As to who will be Schalke's last line of defence, with Lars Unnerstall having had a distinct off-day at the weekend, Stevens was typically to-the-point on the eve of this crunch encounter: "We've got three goalkeepers. One of them will be playing."
Schalke: Unnerstall - Uchida, Höwedes, Papadopoulos (Matip), Fuchs - Neustädter, J. Jones - Farfan, Holtby (Draxler), Afellay - Huntelaar
Arsenal: Mannone - Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs - Arteta, Wilshere - Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Arshavin - Podolski