Munich - FC Schalke 04 head coach Huub Stevens was a happy man after his team's 2-0 win at Bundesliga new boys Greuther Fürth on Saturday, a result that lifted the Royal Blues up to fourth in the table.
As well as picking up the three points, the players were perhaps also given a handy preview of what lies in store for them when they begin their UEFA Champions League campaign at Olympiacos FC on Tuesday evening.
The result in Fürth might have been sewn up far earlier had the normally reliable Klaas-Jan Huntelaar not wasted a series of presentable chances. Rather than dwell on missed opportunities though, Stevens preferred to focus on his team's defensive strengths. "They gave us a real game, and we hardly turned up in the first 25-30 minutes. But we were very strong at the back", the 58-year-old tactician said.
Lewis Holtby, who scored Schalke's second goal and on one occasion was overlooked by Huntelaar when well-placed to score another, echoed his coach's sentiments and dismissed any criticism of his teammate's apparent profligacy. "He's just a very ambitious player. Next time he'll see me", said the 21-year-old of Huntelaar, the Bundesliga's top scorer with 29 goals last season.
While the result may have been the ideal way to boost the players' confidence before the Champions League trip to Piraeus, it was the occasion, and specifically the way his charges rose to it, that also impressed Stevens.
Playing in the compact, and packed-out, Trolli Arena, Schalke successfully dealt with the intimidating home support. The partisan crowd also gave them a useful insight into the type of reception that awaits them in Greece on Tuesday night. "The atmosphere here has given us a foretaste of that - it will be very intense in Athens", warned Stevens.
That view is shared by team captain Benedikt Höwedes, who used the word 'cauldron' to describe the welcome they will likely receive in the Karaiskakis Stadium in the port city just south of the Greek capital. The 24-year-old centre back was nonetheless adamant that the players will not let the atmosphere work to their detriment, noting, "We've worked hard to be able to compete in this competition."
Alongside Olympiacos, Schalke have been matched up with surprise French champions Montpellier HSC and 2006 finalists Arsenal FC. Safely negotiating the group phase will be no easy task, but for a side that reached the semi-finals of the competition as recently as 2011, eliminating holders Inter Milan in the process, progressing to the knockout stages is not an unreasonable expectation.
Christoph Ruf reporting from Fürth