Schalke - Montpellier Preview: Stevens' men look to take big step towards qualification
The Konigsblauen triumphed against Olympiakos in Greece on Matchday 1, and can put themselves in a great position to make the knock-out stages against the Ligue 1 champions
By Enis Koylu
Howedes, Matip, Papadopoulos, Fuchs
Afellay, Holtby, Draxler
Bocaly, Hilton, Congre, Yanga-Mbiwa
Cabella, Belhanda, Ait Fana
Schalke boss Huub Stevens has a couple of selection headaches going into the clash with the French champions. At the back, Joel Matip should keep his place at the heart of defence after scoring an excellent header against Fortuna Dusseldorf, despite Atsuto Uchida's return to fitness.
The Cameroon international's presence will mean that Benedikt Howedes will continue in his less-preferred role as a right-back, with Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Christian Fuchs completing the defence. Jermaine Jones is now fully-fit after missing the win over Mainz, and will line up alongside Roman Neustadter in midfield.
However, Jefferson Farfan, who had not recovered sufficiently from strained knee ligaments to feature against his side's Ruhr rivals, is unlikely to be any more than a substitute on Wednesday, leaving Ibrahim Afellay, Lewis Holtby and Julian Draxler to form an attacking trio behind Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, with Tranquillo Barnetta dropping out.
Meanwhile, Rene Girard's main problem area will be defence as the Paillade prepare for the trip to Gelsenkirchen. Cyril Jeunechamp limped out of the weekend's clash with Nancy and is unlikely to recover in time, while Henri Bedimo picked up an injury training.
Their absences may force club captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa to act as a makeshift full-back for his side. In midfield, the coach must choose between Marco Estrada and Benjamin Stambouli, and may elect to stick with the former.
Finally, John Utaka is out, leaving Remy Cabella, Younes Belhanda and Karim Ait Fana to form a potent attacking triumvirate behind lone striker Souleymane Camara.
|DID YOU KNOW?
Schalke have never faced Montpellier before, but played French opposition in the group stage of this competition two years ago. The Konigsblauen beat Olympique Lyonnais 3-0 in Germany thanks to a Jefferson Farfan goal, followed by a Klaas-Jan Huntelaar double, but lost 1-0 in at Stade Gerland. Additionally, they have won all three of their home games against Ligue 1 sides.
- The goal scored by Benedikt Howedes on Matchday 1 against Olympiakos was his side's 50th ever in the Champions League proper.
- Julian Draxler, 19, because the youngest player to reach 50 Bundesliga appearances when he came off the bench during his side's 3-0 win over Mainz last Tuesday.
It took Montpellier four games to register their first Ligue 1 win of the season this term. In their title-winning 2011-12 season, they triumphed in all of their first four fixtures.
Paillade winger Remy Cabella (pictured, right) sent four shots wide on Matchday 1, the joint highest total, along with that of Sebastian Giovinco of Juventus and Angel Di Maria of Real Madrid.
- Montpellier are one of three sides making their debut in the Champions League this season, along with Malaga, Nordsjaelland. Only the Spanish outfit managed to win on their first ever match in Europe's top competition.
Top 3 Predictions
FC Schalke 04 2-0 Montpellier Herault SC
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|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||04 Dec 2012||Montpellier Herault SC 1 - FC Schalke 04 1|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||03 Oct 2012||FC Schalke 04 2 - Montpellier Herault SC 2|
|FC Schalke 04|
|03 Dec 2013||FC Schalke 04 1 - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 3||GERC|
|30 Nov 2013||FC Schalke 04 3 - VfB Stuttgart 0||BUN|
|26 Nov 2013||Steaua Bucureşti 0 - FC Schalke 04 0||UCL|
|23 Nov 2013||Eintracht Frankfurt 3 - FC Schalke 04 3||BUN|
|09 Nov 2013||FC Schalke 04 3 - Werder Bremen 1||BUN|
|Montpellier Herault SC|
|04 Dec 2013||Montpellier Herault SC 0 - FC Lorient 2||Lig1|
|29 Nov 2013||Olympique de Marseille 2 - Montpellier Herault SC 0||Lig1|
|23 Nov 2013||Montpellier Herault SC 1 - EA Guingamp 1||Lig1|
|09 Nov 2013||Valenciennes FC 1 - Montpellier Herault SC 1||Lig1|
|03 Nov 2013||Montpellier Herault SC 1 - FC Nantes 1||Lig1|
|17||Jefferson Agustin Farfán||Striker|
|5||Vitorino Hilton da Silva||Defender|
|18||Karim Ait Fana||Striker|