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sábado, 15 de marzo de 2008

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: SCHALKE 04 (This article is available in English and Español)

After we analysed different Champions League´s team as Fenerbahçe or AS Roma, it is time to analyse Schalke 04, the rival of FC Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the competition. We think that it will not be a balanced eliminatory because Schalke is not playing too good this season, since it is a team without too much individuality techniques- we do not understand the departure to Galatasaray of the brilliant Brazilian offensive midfielder Lincoln last summer-.Moreover the team has not this season the defensive solidity that the team of Mirko Slomka had other seasons, as the team has an average of 1 goal received per game in the Bundesliga(it has finished only 5 games without any goal received ), so it will be very difficult to see none FC Barcelona´s goal during this eliminatory,and therefore it will be very complicated for the Veltins Arena´s team to pass this eliminatory.

Perhaps the defensive problems have some reasons: the problems with the goalkeeper and some injuries in the veteran defensive line. About the goalkeeper, we must say that the Gelsenkirchen´s team is looking for a consolidated goalkeeper since 1 season, when the experienced Frank Rost moved to Hamburg, leaving Schalke 04 without a secure goalkeeper and being difficult to find some candidate in the German market. Finally Mirko Slomka decided to look to the second team and he decided to bet in a young goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer. This goalkeeper was the man who had more requirements for a German goalkeeper: tall, secure, good reflections, sober. But of course, Neuer is very young (21 years) and therefore he has not all these requirements exactly for the moment, but each time he is playing better and if he has actions as in the Porto´s game – good saves against Quaresma, the Moroccan Tarik Sektioui and specially the Lisandro Lopez´s penalty-, he will have more trust and he will play better, committing fewer mistakes, although however these big games against FC Barcelona arrive soon and he can commit any serious mistake during this elimantory.

Moreover, as we said, Schalke also has a problem with the central defenders, because most of them are too veterans (Mladen Krstajic 34 year´s old, Marcelo Bordon 32 and Dario Rodriguez 33-although the Uruguayan left the Bundesliga last month to return to Peñarol-), and of course, they do not play with the level that they showed 3 years ago. Besides they have the problem of the injury of the left back of the team, Christian Pander-player of the German National Team and with an excellent shot-, and it was a problem for Slomka, who had to recompose the defensive line, playing Heiko Westermann as a left back (he is a very good central defender and he will be the central defender of the German National Team in the close years) and as central defenders the veteran Serbian Krstajic and the Brazilian Bordon (player of the Brazilian National Team). Anyway, against FC Barcelona we will see the best defensive line, because Pander is recovered and therefore alongside Pander, we will see Westermann and Bordon as central defenders and the young Brazilian Rafinha as right back- this player of the Brazilian National team is an excellent player, very offensive, with good quality and it is sure that he will play in other top team very soon (AC Milan could be an option, because the Italian giant needs a good player in this position urgently).

Moreover, Slomka has a team with very disciplined players, worker and without much quality, being the most prominent players in the midfield Fabian Ernst and Jermaine Jones (both players of the German National Team), who are support of team and they are accompanied in the sides by players with the same characteristics, strong and worker: the Georgian Levan Kobiashvili on the left and on the right the Uruguayan Varela. Possibly the only player with remarkable quality in the midfield is the Croatian Ivan Rakitic-player of the Croatian National Team-, which is an offensive midfielder with good quality and vision of the game.He started the season very well (it seemed that he was the ideal substitute of Brazilian Lincoln) , but in recent months (since he received a club´s sanction, because he went to a party with Krstajic)his level has suffered, and in fact he is playing less minutes and he is losing presence in the team and players as the Uruguayan Carlos Grossmüller- strong player with good shot- is having more options to play.
We can see the same characteristics-strong and work- in the strikers of the German team, as for example the Danish Soren Larsen (he does not score a goal since 2 years), the powerful Gerald Asamoah, the Turkish Halil Altintop and the best striker of the team, Kevin Kuranyi, who is a very good striker, with a lot of smell-he has scored 19 goals in 45 games with the German National Team- and he scores easily both with the feet and the head , so FC Barcelona should pay close attention to this good striker if they want to get out alive from Gelsenkirchen. The other strikers have a very secondary role, as the Danish Peter Lövenkrands, who is playing very bad –although it is also true that this player is playing as left winger and we think that he would play better in the middle - and as the new acquisitions: the Uruguayan Vicente Sanchez (good numbers with the Mexican club, Toluca), and Brazilian Ze Roberto, who are in the process of adaptation.
¿Is this enough to be a problem for FC Barcelona?
As we said, we think that Schalke is not an enough rival to FC Barcelona, but we have to take into account some aspects:
1-Schalke 04 is a German team, and we know that a German team is very competitive and until the end, you can not say that you are the winner.
2-Schalke is much better than Celtic Glasgow and we saw the FC Barcelona´s problem to win the Scottish team.
3-FC Barcelona is having a odd season, with many comments: if Ronaldinho love the parties, as if Victor Valdes criticized the media´s treatment, if Thierry Henry is not happy after his divorce, if Henry does not agree with Rijkaard´s system (4-3-3) and he would prefer to play with 4-4-2 and to play as central striker and not as winger, if Messi played by the press´s pressure….
4-The bad level of the FC Barcelona´s defensive line in the last games ( against Atletico de Madrid and Villarreal)We will have the answer during next month when these 2 good teams play, in Gelsenkirchen the first leg and in Barcelona the outcome of this eliminatory.
Cheers,
J&F
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