Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Fat Lady Sings

It seems a bit dramatic to claim that Schalke's chances of advancement are already done after one game, but it's true. This was always going to be a difficult group, and the first requirement was to ensure points at home. Schalke blew that last night by missing early chances and then losing steam.

Valencia came into the game in crisis. Following their 5-0 defeat at the hands of local rival Villareal, Quique Sanchez has come under scrutiny by fans, management and even the players. It doesn't helped that he scoffed at Wesley Sneijder, who is now closing in on superstar status at rivals Real Madrid. Rumors abound that he has lost the dressing room and two cheeky wins against poor opposition in La Liga haven't endeared him. So as they came to the Veltins Arena, Schalke had the upper hand.

Schalke have yet to lose a game in the Bundesliga, and that includes two away draws to direct competitors for the title: Stuttgart and Bayern. So the matchup heavily favored the Gelsenkirken side. And they took the game to Valencia for the first 20 minutes, missing two opportunities early. And while the game evened afterwards, they still had more chances than the Spanish side. A poorly executed trap and even poorer read of a through-ball to David Villa gave Valencia the lead and eventual victory.

A team typically needs 10 points to get through the group stages of Champions League. That leaves Schalke in the unenviable position of needing two points a game for the remainder of the stage. They are now forced to win and draw games on the road. And if they couldn't beat Valencia at home when the visitors were down, there chances of going to the Mestalla and gathering points seems remote right now.

The scenario for advancement is this: a victory home and away against Rosenborg, who shocked Chelsea away last nigh; a win at home against a Chelsea side, who will be healthy by the time that game is played; and a draw at either Stamford Bridge or the Mestalla. The scenario is grim at best.

Schalke will rue the missed chances last night and should not rule out a dogfight for the UEFA Cup spot.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another disappointing showing from a German side in Europe. So far, German clubs are 0-3. I would have thought that AT LEAST Schalke could have tied and Stuttgart won, but it's not to be.