Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Champions League - Group Qualification FC Schalke 04 vs PAOK Saliniki Preview

FC Schalke 04 will be facing the Greek club PAOK Saliniki in the first leg of the Champions League qualification round.  Schalke is seen by many as one of two clubs capable of dethroning FC Bayern and Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga.  Bayer Leverkusen is the other. 

Despite the fact that Schalke is considered as one of the top four sides in Germany's top flight, its first two matches in the new season have left Schalke in 13th place.   In their season debut against Hamburger SV, the Royal Blues ended the match with a 3-3 draw, while four days ago in their second match against Wolfsburg Schalke took a 4-0 beating.   Those two games were not exactly confidence builders. 

PAOK Saliniki is coached by Huub Stevens, who was fired by the Royal Blues in 2012.  Stevens has occupied the coaches bench 304 times with Schalke and knows the club inside out, which will have helped him to prepare PAOK for this competition.

Schalke has had difficulty with its defence in the first two games and it is something that the club only had four days to fix.  Will it be good enough to avoid another loss?  Schalke's scoring ace Klaas Jan Huntelaar   is out due to injury and will be replaced by Adam Szalai, who was acquired from Mainz 05 during the summer transfer window.  Also out are Chinedu Obasi, Anthony Annan and Kyriakos Papdopolous.

Although Schalke is the clear favourite in this contest, the club hasn't been firing on all cylinders and will have to overcome the devastating defeat against Wolfsburg this past weekend.  Game time is 2:30 pm EDT and the match will be broadcast in Canada on SNET 1.  

Projected lineups:

Schalke 04: Timo Hildebrand; Christian Fuchs, Benedikt Höwedes, Felipe Santana, Atsuto Uchida; Jermaine Jones, Marco Höger; Christian Clemens, Julian Draxler, Jefferson Farfán; Ádám Szalai

PAOK Salonika: Jacobo Sanz Ovejero; Lino, Miguel Vítor, Íñigo López Montaña, Stelios Kitsiou; Miroslav Stoch, Alexandros Tziolis, Costin Lazăr, Lucas Pérez Martínez; Stefanos Athanasiadis, Dimitris Salpingidis

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