Berlin: Resurgent Schalke 04 are out to continue their winning streak by beating Galatasaray to book their place in the Champions League’s quarter-finals in Tuesday’s last 16, second leg.
Holding a slight advantage with an away goal from the 1-1 first leg draw in Istanbul three weeks ago, Schalke have won all three games since including Saturday’s 2-1 Bundesliga win over Ruhr Valley rivals Borussia Dortmund.
The victory came at a cost with Holland striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar tearing knee ligaments having scored the winner against Dortmund and is out for the next few weeks.
Despite the loss of last season’s top-scorer in Germany, the derby win has boosted confidence and Schalke are bidding for another win at Gelsenkirchen’s Veltins Arena.
Coach Jens Keller is hoping the home supporters will play their part, even if there are sure to be several thousand Galatasaray fans in the crowd, given the Ruhr’s large Turkish community.
“Beating the German champions doesn’t happen everyday and is encouraging for the tasks ahead,” said Keller, whose side are fourth in the league having dipped to 10th in February.
“It is impressive to hear how much the atmosphere has improved in the stadium – these are happy days for us.”
Captain Benedikt Hoewedes has said that having turned their fortunes around with wins over Wolfsburg, Fortuna Duesseldorf and now Dortmund, Schalke must keep the run going.
“We mustn’t ease up, everyone needs to keep working hard on the pitch and keep playing at the same level, otherwise it can all go wrong again just as quickly,” said the Germany defender who has extended his contract until 2017.
In contrast, Galatasaray remain top of the Turkish league despite Fatih Terim’s team struggling against mid-table teams in Friday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Genclerbirligi and following their goalless draw at Eskisehirspor.
“Pull yourselves together,” Terim is reported to have told his team according to reports in the Turkish media after Friday’s below-par performance.
“Against Schalke, I don’t want to to see you in this state.”
Despite signing Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder in January, both have yet to make their mark at Galatasaray and were quiet in the first leg as Burak Yilmaz’s early goal was ruled out by Schalke’s Jermaine Jones equaliser.
Both clubs have cause for confidence in the second-leg.
Schalke are unbeaten at home in this season’s Champions League and Galatasaray are looking to complete a hat-trick of away victories in the competition.
The Royal Blues have lost just twice in 16 home games in European competition since the start of 2010/11, when they reached the Champions League semi-finals.
Galatasaray are hoping to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2001.