MILAN - Europe's Champions League is
considered the pinnacle of club football but seems to have
become a sideshow for troubled Inter Milan and Schalke 04 who
meet in the quarter-finals in the San Siro on Tuesday.
The two clubs, who will be playing out a repeat of the 1997
UEFA Cup final which the Germans won 1-0, are both mired in
domestic woes that have overshadowed the build-up to a tie
defending champions Inter are favourites to win.
Inter, treble winners last season under Jose Mourinho, are
still brooding following Saturday's 3-0 loss to rivals AC Milan
which all but ended their hopes of a sixth successive scudetto
and exposed coach Leonardo's technical failings.
Schalke, a modest 11th in the Bundesliga, have progressed to
the last eight for only the second time, yet this was almost
lost in the confusion surrounding the sacking of coach Felix
Magath only a week after they beat Valencia in the last 16.
Magath was fired in mid-March with club chairman Clemens
Toennies saying there were "very good reasons" but refusing to
However, the famously die-hard supporters had become
increasingly critical of Magath's far-reaching powers and
controversial transfers while the team's shaky domestic form did
not help either.
Schalke striker Raul, who is hoping to add a fourth
Champions League medal to the three he won at Real Madrid, has
promised he will see out his contract, which runs until 2012,
despite the exit of the man who lured him to Gelsenkirchen.
Ralf Rangnick has returned for a second stint at the club
and made his debut on Friday in the uncompleted Bundesliga match
at St Pauli which was halted by crowd violence with Schalke
Inter's Argentine midfielder Javier Zanetti, the only
survivor of the 1997 meeting on either side, called on his team
mates to put Saturday's disappointment behind them.
"It's not nice to lose that type of game, it' a
disappointment to everyone but we have to look forward," he told
Inter's website ahead of the first leg.
Inter's Brazilian central defender Lucio is suspended with
Colombian Ivan Cordoba expected to take his place alongside
Andrea Ranocchia in the centre of the defence.
Schalke 04's defender Christoph Metzelder suffered a broken
nose against St Pauli but may play with a protective face mask.
However, the Germans will be without striker Mario
Gavranovic, with torn ankle ligaments, and midfielder Peer
Kluge, with a stomach injury.
Kluge's injury is an added worry for Rangnick as Ghana
midfielder Anthony Annan, his natural replacement, is not
eligible for the Champions League.
Inter Milan: 1-Julio Cesar; 13-Maicon, 2-Ivan Cordoba,
15-Andrea Ranocchia, 26-Cristian Chivu; 4-Javier Zanetti,
17-Esteban Cambiasso, 8-Thiago Motta; 10-Wesley Sneijder;
9-Samuel Eto'o, 27-Goran Pandev
Schalke 04: 1-Manuel Neuer; 22-Atutso Uchida, 4-Benedikt
Hoewedes, 21-Christoph Mezelder, 3-Sergio Escudero; 13-Lukas
Schmitz, 32-Joel Matip, 8-Carlos Jurado, 25-Klaas-Jan Huntelaar;
17-Jefferson Farfan, 7-Raul
Referee: Martin Atkinson (England)
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