In the 6th installment of the UEFA Champions League Scouting Reports we take a look at FC Schalke 04, the German Giants referred to as the Royal Blues. Schalke are a fairly unexperienced team, this being their first time passing through the group stages, let alone the quarterfinal. Schalke may not look like a good team, but even without many superstars on the squad they still manage to get the job done.
Schalke's depth chart may seem average to the untrained eye, but they've got a list of great players on their squad that can lead the team to victory at any moment of the game.
Schalke use a wide range of attackers that all get in a good amount of playing time, including Soren Larsen, Peter Lovenkrands, Gerald Asamoah (who has been with the team since 1999), Halil Altintop, Kevin Kuranyi and new aquisition Vincente Sanchez, who arrived in January and has already scored for the club in five games.
Schalke's midfield is led by Levan Kobiashvili, followed by Gustavo Varela, Fabian Ernst, Jermaine Jones and 20 year old attacking midfielder Ivan Rakitic. Together, Schalke's attack has scored an impressive 40 goals in the Bundesliga.
Their defense is led by captain Marcelo Bordon, along with Mladen Krstajic, Heiko Westermann and young goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
As you can see, this team doesn't have many standout players, but are still able to play with the best teams, defeating Portugese monsters FC Porto in Penalty Kicks to reach the quartefinal. What does this tell you? Schalke is filled with hard workers, and though their athletic skill may not be the best in the Champions League, the desire to win is defidently present.
FC Schalke currently stand in a mediocre 5th place in the German Bundesliga, but are only 2 points behind second place Hamburg. 5th is good enough for a Uefa Cup spot, but isn't the type of soccer they need to be playing to be considered as one of the best in Germany, let alone Europe. Schalke may have a hard time staying in the top five with new injuries, notably to Ivan Rakitic, who is now out for the rest of the season, but luckily have a pretty easy schedule remaining, having to play Top 4 teams only twice. However, Schalke have only gained 15 points of an available 24 since the resuming of the Bundesliga after the break in February. With Schalke struggling in their own league, it will be tough for them to succeed in the Champions League, and it would probably be beneficial to Schalke if they were in fact knocked out by Barcelona in the upcoming quarterfinal meeting, so they could put the remainder of their focus on doing well in the Bundesliga.
Jermaine Jones after his winning PK goal that sent Schalke to the quarterfinals at Porto's expense.
Schalke came up with the upset over Porto, which no one saw coming, but Porto is no Barcelona. Being a Celtic fan, I know firsthand how dangerous Barcelona are and how hard it is to beat them. Schalke will put up a good fight against Barca but will ultimately fail for several reasons.
For one, Barcelona is one of the best teams in the world. Individual matchups all across the field give the advantage to Barcelona. Schalke have heart and desire, but they'll need a lot more than that to overcome the Catalians. Schalke will make their exit from the Champions League in the quarterfinal.
Young Ivan Rakitic is a star in the making.