Schalke has the away-goal edge against Galatasaray
GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) — Schalke has already won the game most of its fans consider the highlight of the season, so a place in the quarterfinals of the Champions League would only be a bonus.
The German side takes the away-goal advantage into its home leg against Galatasaray after a 1-1 draw in Istanbul, meaning a win or a 0-0 draw would seal its place in the last eight.
Schalke goes into Tuesday’s match bolstered by a 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund, but weakened by the absence of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, the striker who injured his left knee in the Ruhr derby Saturday and will miss several weeks.
“We want to take the momentum and the confidence from the derby win and reach the quarterfinals,” said Schalke’s rising 19-year-old star Julian Daxler, who scored against Dortmund.
Schalke’s third straight Bundesliga victory was also its second this season over Dortmund, the detested neighbor, and it sent the fans into ecstasy.
“Winning the derby twice is balm for the soul,” Schalke’s sporting director Horst Heldt said. “I am convinced that we can take the next big step.”
Schalke held second place in the Bundesliga before sliding, firing Huub Stevens and giving relative novice Jens Keller the coaching job.
Keller had a rocky start but the team has now stabilized. Schalke is unbeaten at home in the Champions League and has a 100-percent home record against Turkish opposition in European competitions.
“We are in a good position before the second leg, but this draw (in Istanbul) is only going to be worth something if we reach the quarterfinals,” Keller said. “But the guys proved that they were the better team.”
Schalke will also miss tireless midfielder Jermaine Jones, who scored the equalizer in Istanbul but also got himself booked and is suspended for the second leg.
With another striker, Ciprian Marica, also out with a knee injury, Schalke is likely to go with Teemu Pukki, who only has one goal in 16 matches.
Galatasaray has two wins away from home this season in the Champions League and is trying to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2001. But the Turkish champion has won only one of the nine European ties in which it was held at home in the first leg.
And it lost 1-0 at home to Genclerbirgli Ankara in the Turkish league over the weekend.
Galatasaray striker Didier Drogba — who turned 35 Monday — has good memories of Germany, where he scored the equalizer and converted the winning penalty for Chelsea in last season’s Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
So does Hamit Altitop, who spent four seasons with Schalke, his home-town club.
Galatasaray can expect to have support in the crowd — about 10 percent of Gelsenkirchen’s population is of Turkish origin.