While Real Madrid have lost just once in eight games across all competitions, it’s been anything but smooth sailing for Carlo Ancelotti’s men. In particular, Cristiano Ronaldo has struggled since returning from a two-game suspension last month, failing to score in his first two games back. His 34 goals in all competitions (five in UCL play) is still a staggering tally, considering he’s played just 26 games this season.
Real easily advanced from the group stage, topping Group B with a perfect six wins out of six and 18 points.
Schalke, meanwhile, needed every last point to escape Group G as runners-up to Chelsea. It’s been anything but a delightful season for Roberto Di Matteo’s side, which currently sits fourth in the Bundesliga. With just two losses in their last 10 games across all competitions, this is easily the best stretch of results Schalke have enjoyed this season.
Basel aren’t your typical “smaller” Champions League side. For starters, they don’t take the “safe” approach against bigger sides and strictly sit back defensively. Expect them to take chances, get numbers forward and regularly try to be the game’s aggressors. There’s quality players up and down this team that would star for a lot of top Europa League and lower-half Champions League sides. Basel finished second in Group B, ahead of Liverpool.
Porto ran roughshod over Group H, scoring an impressive 16 goals in six games while conceded just four times. Jackson Martinez is the star man everyone knows, but Yacine Brahimi and Vincent Aboubakar also offer plenty of quality going forward. Porto (14 points) won Group H comfortably, five points ahead of Shakhtar Donetsk.
The first half of the season is over for Julian Draxler. The 21-year-old had to be withdrawn after only a few seconds in Friday’s game against FC Augsburg (31st October) after picking up an injury in his right hamstring.
The fears of the Royal Blues were confirmed on Monday (3rd November) after undergoing an examination with national team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt. The midfielder has a partial tear of his semimembranosus muscle in his right hamstring. He made his way to Stuttgart this afternoon and will be operated on as soon as an appointment with the relevant doctor is sorted.
Draxler broke into the Bundesliga with Schalke in 2011 as a 16-year-old, becoming the fourth-youngest player in the league’s history. His speed and creativity down the wings have made him one of the most exciting young talents in Europe as he has been pinned with a move to the Premier League for over a year now.
If Draxler is out until January, it will be interesting to see if club’s are willing to offer big bucks for an injured youngster or if they will wait until next summer to make sure he is fully healed.
UEFA Champions League Preview: Chelsea vs. Schalke
With four wins in four Premier League games, Chelsea will now face some international competition as they take on German side Schalke to open up their Champions League campaign.
The red-hot Chelsea squad faces a struggling Schalke, who currently sit 16th in the Bundesliga after gaining only one point in three matches. However, their one point did come in a draw against defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. The two clubs met last season in the Champions League, with Chelsea winning both matches by the score of 3-0.
Jose Mourinho’s record in European competition is impeccable. Already with Champions League titles at Porto and Inter Milan, it is the one trophy that has eluded him at Chelsea. Nearly unbeatable at Stamford Bridge, look for the Blues to continue their winning ways against Schalke today.
Those winning ways have been brought by outstanding team play, but one man in particular has been carrying the load.
Diego Costa has been in superb form, scoring seven Premier League goals in his first four games. Goals come second-nature to the big Spaniard, and he is showing why Chelsea paid over $50 million for his services. This is his first Champions League game for Chelsea, and Blues fans will be hoping he brings his European form from Madrid with him. Last season for Atletico, Costa scored eight goals in nine games while leading his team to the finals, only to be substituted early in the match with an injury.
Chelsea must be careful, because they have an even bigger match on Sunday against Manchester City. Mourinho must make sure his squad is fit and healthy on the weekend, so some key players may get a bit of rest today. However, don’t expect Mourinho’s men to lay down, as they know how important every point is in European competition.
Keep an eye out for which goalkeeper is in net for Chelsea today. Thibaut Courtois signed a new deal after being named the number-one keeper, but Mourinho has hinted at playing veteran Petr Cech in some European games. While Cech is a more experienced ‘keeper, Courtois led Atletico Madrid to the Champions League final last season. Just an interesting side story, as one strong, or shaky, performance could add new fuel to the goalkeeper competition at Stamford Bridge.
Netherlands striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar far away from Schalke exit
Klaas Jan-Huntelaar, who has been a part of the Netherlands international side since 2006, may ink a new deal with his current Bundesliga squad, Schalke.
Huntelaar was rumored to have been a option for Arsenal this summer, as they hoped to bolster their forward position during the transfer window.
It was a injury to Olivier Giroud that ultimately made the Gunners seek another man to supplement the attack up front, and on deadline day, Wenger and Co. selected Manchester United footballer Danny Welbeck, instead of the Dutchmen.
Hunteelar was first noticed at Ajax, where he tallied 76 goals in 92 appearances, and after two short stints at Real Madrid and AC Milan, he’s found goal scoring ability once more in Germany, tallying 60 scores in 101 caps from 2010 to now.
According to general manager Horst Heldt, the Royal Blues had no intentions of letting their star player hit the road. In fact, he said that the team didn’t even receive a offer for the striker.
“We have not been receiving any transfer enquires from Arsenal or any other club for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar,” Heldt said, via Sky Sports.
Heldt also acknowledged the fact that the 31-year-old is someone the management wants to stay, not only because of his skill on the pitch.
“Huntelaar is a fixture at our club. We are definitely able to imagine signing a new contract with him…There is no doubt he is a top quality player and a true role model. He is ambitious, determined and truly hungry for success.”