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Champions League preview: Schalke v Manchester United

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 25 Apr 2011

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Schalke host Manchester United on Tuesday in the last four of the Champions League, with a place in the final at Wembley the prize on offer.

Leading the English Premier League by six points, United appear favourites to reach what would be their third final in the past four seasons.

They won their third European Cup after a penalty shootout victory over Chelsea in 2008, before losing 2-0 to Barcelona the following year.

Last season’s challenge came to halt at the quarter-final stage against Bayern Munich.

And another Bundesliga outfit, Schalke, can now become the third German club to get the better of Sir Alex Ferguson’s team at this stage of the Champions League.

A side captained by Eric Cantona lost to eventual winners Borussia Dortmund in 1996/97, before Bayer Leverkusen also reached a final at United’s expense in 2001/02.

Ferguson’s team saw off Premier League rivals Chelsea 3-1 on aggregate in the last round and the Scotsman will now be hoping to make it third time lucky against German opposition in the last four.

For their part, Schalke appeared to be anything but Champions League semi-finalists after enduring a disappointing campaign in the league.

Runners-up to Bayern last season, the team are a distant 10th in the Bundesliga table this time round.

Inconsistent form contributed to the departure of Felix Magath as coach in March, to be replaced by Ralf Rangnick.

Former Hoffenheim boss Rangnick can take the plaudits for booking the tie against United after orchestrating a remarkable 7-3 aggregate victory over defending champions Inter Milan in the last eight.

Schalke go into the first leg of the tie on the back of a 1-0 defeat at home to Kaiserslautern on Saturday, while United beat Everton at Old Trafford by the same scoreline.

After battling an injury crisis for much of the season, United finally have something approaching a clean bill of health.

Striker Dimitar Berbatov did not feature against Everton and is in doubt for the trip to the Ruhr, while midfielder Darren Fletcher is likely to miss out with a virus.

Rangnick is expected to make wholesale changes from the team that lost to Kaiserslautern.

Kyriakos Papadopoulos of Greece, Spaniard Jose Jurado and Germans Joel Matip and Alexander Baumjohann are expected to form an entirely different midfield, while Benedikt Hoewedes is likely to start in defence after missing the defeat on Saturday.

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