MANCHESTER - Manchester United are
favourites to book a Champions League final date with Barcelona
and will hope to expend the minimum amount of energy against
Schalke 04 on Wednesday before this week's big domestic battle.
Holding a 2-0 lead from the first leg in Germany, United
will make changes to keep players fresh for Sunday's key Premier
League match against Chelsea although they are expecting Schalke
to pose a stiffer challenge than last week.
"Schalke have nothing to lose and I think they'll have a go,
they'll try to win the match there's nothing else they can do,"
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson told a news conference before
bidding to take his team to their third final in four years.
United striker Wayne Rooney faces a late fitness test on his
tight hamstring but is likely to be on the bench after Ferguson
suggested Premier League top scorer Dimitar Berbatov and Michael
Owen would be involved.
Schalke, wounded by a 4-1 Bundesliga defeat by Bayern Munich
at the weekend on top of last week's timid performance against
United in Gelsenkirchen, have a point to prove and have hailed
April's stunning 5-2 win at Inter Milan as proof they are
capable of an upset.
"It's up to us to perform in contrast to the first leg,"
Schalke manager Ralf Rangnick said. "We need to take a different
approach, learn from that and apply the lessons."
Rangnick has yet to decide whether to play central defender
Benedikt Hoewedes, who scored in the second leg against Inter,
but said he would not take "unnecessary risks" if he has not
recovered 100 percent from an abdominal muscle injury.
Barcelona completed a 3-1 aggregate victory over Real Madrid
on Tuesday. The final is at Wembley stadium on May 28.
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