Schalke 04 will take to the pitch at Montpellier HSC on Tuesday evening knowing that victory over the French champions will guarantee them top spot in Champions League qualifying Group B.

Indeed, should Arsenal FC - likewise already safely through to the first knockout round of the tournament - fail to take all three points away from Piraeus in their simultaneous encounter with Olympiacos - then the Royal Blues could even afford the luxury of a defeat in the south of France and still top the group, due to their better head-to-head record against the Gunners.

Pressure off


The mood in the Gelsenkirchen camp was accordingly relaxed as the squad prepared to fly out on Monday. Not excessively so, though, given that Schalke need a good result at the moment as much to boost potentially flagging spirits after four games without a win on the home front as for any more concrete end.

"We're not exactly brimming over with self-confidence in the Bundesliga at the moment," skipper Benedikt Höwedes acknowledged at the airport, "but the Champions League is a different tournament and, as such, I think we'll be able to go out there and play without pressure." Indeed, it is a tournament in which Schalke are as yet unbeaten this season, although they did throw away one victory by conceding a last-minute equaliser to their upcoming opponents in the home tie at the Veltins Arena.

Farfan ruled out


That, in fact, is the only point Montpellier have manage pick up in their five group matches to date and, for them, only pride is at stake in this one. Royal Blues' coach Huub Stevens meanwhile, who was already having to bat away questions about an impending 'crisis' in the run-up to Saturday's 1-1 home draw with Mönchengladbach, will be forced into some personnel changes regardless of any plans he might have had for rotating his team.

In addition to centre back Kyriakos Papadopoulos (knee trouble) and frontman Ibrahim Afellay (thigh strain), Stevens has also lost Jefferson Farfan for this one, the pacy Peruvian wide midfielder having been ruled out with an ankle joint injury. Teemu Pukki, Tranquillo Barnetta and Chinedu Obasi are all potential starters down the right though, so the coach is not exactly stuck for alternatives. Former Germany No1 Timo Hildebrand, who replaced Lars Unnerstall in goal for the game against Gladbach, is likely to retain his place between the posts.

Meanwhile, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is in a 40-strong poll for UEFA's 2012 Team of the Year. Votes can be cast here.

Possible line-ups

Montpellier: Ligali - Congre, Yanga-Mbiwa, Hilton, Bedimo - Stambouli, Estrada - Cabella, Belhanda, Utaka – Charbonnier

Schalke: Hildebrand - Uchida, Höwedes, Metzelder, Fuchs - Neustädter, Kolasinac - Obasi, Holtby, Draxler - Huntelaar