UEFA Champions League
October 3, 2012
Schalke look to seize initiative
Team Stat Comparison
|Goals for *||1.7||1.0|
|Goals against *||1.3||2.3|
|Last 5 home||L-W-D-D||D-L-L|
|Last 5 away||D-D-W-W||L-L-D|
|* Goals per match - home matches for home club and away matches for away club|
|Stats: Schalke 04 | Montpellier|
With a double-header against group favourites Arsenal on the horizon, Schalke are hoping steal a march on the other teams in their pool with a victory over Montpellier at the Arena AufSchalke.
The Royal Blues started their European campaign with a 2-1 win over Olympiacos a fortnight ago, and another victory on Wednesday night would set them up nicely for the two matches against the Gunners - who Schalke coach Huub Stevens believes are likely to top Group B, leaving the remaining three sides battling to finish runners-up.
"I see Arsenal as the favourites for our group,'' he said. "Montpellier, Olympiacos and we will be fighting for second place.''
Schalke go into the match on the back of some indifferent domestic form.
Defeat to Bayern Munich was followed by an unconvincing victory over Mainz, at least in terms of the performance and not the 3-0 scoreline, while Friday's 2-2 draw at Fortuna Dusseldorf earned the team plenty of criticism, not only from their own fans.
Schalke were leading 2-0 in that match but were pegged back in the second half.
However, Schalke captain Benedikt Howedes insists his side are now looking forward rather than back.
"For us, the Dusseldorf match is in the past,'' he said.
"We are really looking forward to this match against Montpellier. We worked hard in the league last year to qualify for this.
"We showed that we can say a thing or two in Europe when we faced Olympiacos. We played a great game there and deserved to win, and wins like that give you a lift.''
Self-confidence alone is not going to be enough to win, though, and their coach has warned against getting complacent against a side currently struggling in the French league after creating a major upset by winning the title in May.
"It is no coincidence that they are French champions,'' Stevens said at the pre-match press conference.
"Montpellier have some good players, such as Souleymane Camara, Younes Belhanda and Anthony Mournier.
"They may not be so well known in Germany, but that does not mean anything.''
Stevens is likely to be without Jefferson Farfan, who sat out the draw against Fortuna and has not fully recovered from a pulled muscle, while Jermaine Jones is also a doubt after taking a knock to the ankle in training yesterday.
"We will have to see who can play after our final training session. All I can say is that there will be 11 players and one will be wearing gloves,'' added the coach.
The gloves will be on for Montpellier as they plan to come out fighting in Gelsenkirchen, buoyed by a much-needed win in Ligue 1 against Nancy at the weekend.
"This is good for the lads,'' said coach Rene Girard after Saturday's victory. "It gives us a bit of breathing space.
"It is good for morale because we have a difficult game against Schalke. We know that it is not going to be easy, but it is a different competition and I am not concerned - we will rise to the occasion.''