Stevens: Pressure all on Schalke

The former S04 coach has fanned the flames ahead of the Champions League playoff second leg by suggesting his current charges have the edge
Huub Stevens insists his PAOK side feel no pressure as they attempt to reach the Champions League group stages for the first time in their history.

A Miroslav Stoch equaliser earned the Greeks a priceless 1-1 away draw to Schalke in their playoff first leg last Wednesday, meaning that a PAOK win or a goalless draw at the Stadio Toumba on Tuesday will be enough to take them through, and Stevens believes it is his former club who the most to lose.

"The first leg result hasn't changed the odds – it's still a 50-50 tie," said the 59-year-old Dutchman.

"We're very motivated and we want to qualify, without considering it an obligation to go through. Schalke are under pressure – we are not.

"It's a very important match, but we shouldn't be stressed about it. We should have our feet firmly on the ground. Life will go on no matter the result.

The visitors have a number of injury woes, with chief goal-getter Klaas-Jan Huntelaar definitely missing, along with defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos and midfielder Sead Kolasinac.

On top of that, Joel Matip and Leon Goretzka face fitness tests as Jens Keller seeks to inspire an upturn in early season fortunes.

"This is a very important match for the club, for everybody at Schalke. The pressure would be huge in any case, regardless of our run in the league," he said.

"The 1-1 first-leg result is not ideal, but it is not fatal. We experienced the inverse scenario last season when we drew 1-1 with Galatasaray in Istanbul and then got eliminated at home.

“We have worked hard to reach this point. If we make it to the group stage, the team stand to benefit a lot from their participation in the Champions League."