While Inter Milan are the clear favorites to beat Schalke and move into the Champions League semi-finals, coach Leonardo isn't prepared to let down his guard, saying, "They haven't got into the Quarter-Finals by chance." Well, Mister, there is always an element of luck to football, and Schalke's weak group and then Round of 16 draw against Valencia certainly hasn't hurt their chances. The German side's home form doesn't offer any hint of a club that could win the competition. Although Ralf Ragnick's team held a 2-0 lead until the 88th minute in the coach's first game in charge, the match against St. Paulii was called off when a linesman was hit with a cup of beer. The result of the game is yet to be decided, and for the moment Schalke remain in 11th in the Bundesliga, just a season after finishing in second place.
Inter, of course, have been "Revitalized" (yes, that's with a capital R) under their own new coach, Leonardo, having moved into second place and mounting a serious scudetto challenge. After losing 3-0 to Serie A leaders AC Milan at the weekend, however, the nerazzurri may have lost their comeback sparkle, the shine that has been clinging to Inter since their last-minute win against Bayern Munich in the Round of 16. Despite the over-used stereotype marking Inter out as a defensive team, the side were easily exposed in the weekend's derby, constantly allowing Milan to get behind the defense.
Chance, at least, has more of an effect on this match than history does. Many point to the fact that Schalke beat Inter - on penalties - in the 1997 UEFA Cup. Which, it must be pointed out, was 14 years ago. Pretty sure that nothing about that penalty shootout will affect the way Tuesday's match is played. The fact that Schalke have only been to the quarter -finals of the Champions League one before might have a bit more bearing, but with Raúl, the tournament's all - time leading goal scorer, on their side, beating last year's champs should be no trouble at all.
In seriousness, Schalke may need to rely on Inter's mental stumbling block, their loss to AC Milan, to get past the Italian side. The nerazzurri have been fielding an immensely strong attacking lineup, with Samuel Eto'o, Giampaolo Pazzini, and Goran Pandev in front, Wesley Sneijder just behind. Pazzini is cup-tied after his move from Sampdoria, but expect the attack to continue to thrive, with the other three the scorers against Bayern. Fortunately for Schalke, they have Manuel Neuer in front of net, a man who can save the game single-handedly. Jefferson Farfán can trouble the defense at the other end. With Lucio suspended for this match, there's a weakness in central defense. Andrea Ranocchia is still coming into his own, and Iván Córdoba is much less adept at covering for his mistakes than is Lucio.
Still, it will likely take more than a little luck or chance for Schalke to overcome the reigning champions on Tuesday. Then again, that's why we play the games, as they say in the business.