While Turkish champions Galatasaray won their final three matches to make the last 16, Schalke, in stark contrast to their current run of just one victory in twelve domestic outings, impressively topped Group B - and are one of only four teams still unbeaten in the tournament.
The Royal Blues' most recent showing in the 2-2 weekend draw at 1. FSV Mainz 05 was a significant improvement on those that directly preceded it. "We showed morale and fought until the final whistle," said team captain , who stressed that coming back twice at the Coface Arena has helped the players regain confidence. "We now want to carry that momentum with us to Istanbul."
Winter signing Michel Bastos, who struck twice in Saturday's game, is convinced he and his new colleagues can return from Istanbul with a good result under their belt. "The team have the ability to solve the current problems," said the ten-time Brazil international, who has bagged their last three goals in the league. "Even before I made the switch from Lyon to Gelsenkirchen I knew about the quality of this Schalke side."
Huntelaar back in action
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's comeback from an eye injury is certainly a timely boost for the Royal Blues. On the down side, a whole clutch of possible starters - Atsuto Uchida, Ibrahim Afellay, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Ciprian Marica and Lars Unnerstall - are all ruled out, as is Raffael, the on-loan Brazilian attacking midfielder having already featured for FC Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League this season.
Hosts Galatasaray made headlines around the football world recently with the acquistion of Dutch midfield ace Wesley Sneijder and FC Bayern Munich bogeyman Didier Drogba. The Ivorian Champions League-winner made an impressive start last Friday, scoring one and setting up another in a 2-1 win against cellar dwellers Akhisar Belediyespor. He is expected to start up front for the current Turkish table-toppers alongside Burak Yilmaz, scorer of six goals in this season's competition so far.
Galatasaray: Muslera - Sabri, Nounkeu, Semih, Riera - Altintop, Selcuk Inan, Kurtulus, Sneijder - Burak, Drogba
Schalke: Hildebrand - Höger, Höwedes, Matip, Fuchs - Jones, Neustädter - Farfan, Draxler, Bastos – Huntelaar