First knockout round – first leg
Schalke coach Mirko Slomka intends to mark a century of European appearances with a victory to against Porto as the Champions League enters its knockout phase tonight.
“This is our 100th game in UEFA club competition and it will be our 50th victory too!” said the 40-year-old.
“Porto have more experience and a stronger European heritage. But we are at home, we’re collectively strong and have a bit more physical presence. We need to take our chances.”
Slomka admits that his side have been struggling defensively in recent monts, and his cause is nbot helped by the loss through injury of efender Christian Pander and midfielder Zlatan Bajramovic.
“We are struggling to keep clean sheets,” conceded Slomka. “Our problem seems to be that when we score, we are not content to drop off and play on the break. Instead we keep attacking and opponents keep punishing us.”
Slomka believes the key to success against Porto lies in taking the game to them.
“Away from home Porto like to sit back and wait for the counterattack, using the long ball to Lisandro López,” he said. “We need to harry them, prevent them playing their own game, and play to our strengths instead.”
Porto coach, Jesualdo Ferreira, knows all about Schalke’s strengths, declaring that “they are a very good German team – possibly the best at the moment”.
Only Pedro Emanuel and the injured Bosingwa remain from the side that triumphed at the 2004 Champions League final, and Ferreira is keen for his team to create some history of their own rather than reflect on the achievements of Jose Mourinho’s side.
“I don’t need to talk about the symbolic power of Schalke – the stadium, the atmosphere – it’s something special,” he said. “But we have to forget that. We have to fight, be aggressive. You can’t win a game with history.”