Manchester City v. Schalke (Champions League Game)
The first leg of this match had everything a spectator would want to see at the Veltins-Arena. It had a total of 6 yellow cards, five goals, three Schalke saves, two yellow cards, and a red card for yellow card accumulation. Long story short, the first leg of this game was an epic and hopefully a sign of what’s still to come!
Manchester City will have to start this game without Nicolás Otamendi after being sent off in the first leg due to yellow card accumulation (after receiving a second yellow for a handball as the last defender). Although he only appears in about half of the Premier League games so far, he’s been a part of half of City’s Champions League squads. Ironically, they are 4-0-0 when Otamendi plays, and 1-1-1 when he doesn’t make an appearance. While the first leg goes down as a win for City, I’m not sure that Pep was thrilled with the performance. He’ll be irritated about Otamendi’s send-off for accumulation, and while I don’t believe that was Ederson’s best game; he was up against it with two penalties, and he provided a great outlet to assist with a goal.
The last time we talked about Manchester City’s domestic season (in our Man City v. Schalke Leg 1 preview) we spoke about a recent slip in form that had seen the Citizens fall beneath Liverpool by 4 points. Recently, however, it’s been a good run for them. They have five wins in their last 6, and the final game was an away loss to Newcastle. It’s becoming evident that a less an absolute form disaster accompanies both Liverpool and Manchester City, it’s likely one of the two will win the league. If there is a knock on the Citizens though, it would have to be their away form. In 14 games played away from the Etihad, they have accumulated 29 points; compared to the 42 points in 15 games at home. Their average goals scored per game as dropped slightly to just over three goals per game at home, and a hair over two away from home. City is basically allowing one goal per game regardless of where the game is played.
In the Champions League, City is sticking right with their Premier League average at three goals per game on nearly 20 shots at the Etihad. The Citizens are fourth in the Champions League for shots outside of the box (51), third for shots taken from the penalty box (76), and third in shots overall (132) leading to ten goals. In addition to the ten goals scored, City is tied for second with five City shots off the crossbar and tied for third with 29 of their shots blocked. In 3 games played so far at home, Ederson has only been forced to make eight saves, and his team has blocked nine more. Since the group stage, the Citizens have scored 19 goals while conceding only 8 entering the second leg at home. However, Manchester City has been more vulnerable at home in the Champions League with three wins and a loss out of four, with two goals allowed to both; Schalke and Lyon but only 1 in other home games.
Players to watch:
–Sergio Aguero: Aguero has been the top scorer for the Citizens this season in the Premier League and is tied (with our 2nd player to watch and a couple of others) for top scorer in the Champions League. Don’t think he’s only a scorer though, he’s likely to eclipse the twenty goal mark and could very likely hit double digits in assists as well. In the Champions League, he’s been less relied on to score goals, so both the goal scoring and assists have been shared around more. He’s one of the eight scorers in the Champions League and one of thirteen scorers in the Premier League. In 25 Premier League appearances he’s amassed 35 shots on target and had five more denied by the woodwork. In the Champions League, he’s only made four appearances of the seven, and that’s part of why his numbers are more pedestrian than his statistics in the Premier League.
–Raheem Sterling: Sterling is mentioned here as the joint top assist man of the season (edging out Sane by other statistics). Like Aguero though, he’s not just one-sided, he’s provided nine assists for City in the Premier League to go along with 12 goals. Sterling has been named Man of the Match seven times and leads the team by three awards (next in line is the former player to watch). Sterling has been probably one the best players (if not the best player) for City this season. In the Champions League, he’s tied for the second-highest goals scored, and he’s added an assist to boot. He’s also averaging among the highest number of key passes per game in the next to our next (player to watch) and is only slightly lessened in the Premier League with two.
–Kevin de Bruyne: Unfortunately for de Bruyne, he seems to have succumbed to another injury which means he will be out of this fixture unless he can perform miracles (might not be too big of a stretch) or the injury was overstated. I’m hoping de Bruyne can make it back to fitness, partly because I really liked my write up, but it’s also unfortunate to see a player of his caliber suffer repeated injuries.
de Bruyne has struggled for fitness this season with a couple of serious injuries. However, he’s finally making his way back to full fitness, which is not a good omen for Schalke. He has only played in two Champions League games, but he’s averaging three key passes per game. Across the 14 Premier League appearances (seven starts, seven substitute appearances), he’s averaged 1.5 key passes per game although he’s averaging only 48 minutes per game during that time. He’s averaged two shots per game and managed a single assist in the two Champions League appearances he’s made. Kevin de Bruyne played only one half against Bournemouth after playing the full 90 in the midweek fixture, seemingly to provide him an opportunity to rest. City has one more game on Saturday before the midweek clash against Schalke; I expect de Bruyne to play against Schalke. He should get himself on the scoresheet as he returns to his form from last season that won him Premier League Playmaker of the Season (in honor of 15 assists).
Schalke led the first 45 minutes of the first meeting ending the first half 2-1. After that, they allowed City to score two more and eventually win the game. Despite Schalke scoring two goals, the scoresheet is very generous because both goals (and both shots on target) came from the penalty spot, although they also had three of their shots blocked. They need to step up their game as they travel to the Etihad to keep this game close. Schalke’s Champions League form is a vast improvement this season over their domestic play (where they sit just outside of the relegation zone), and they will need that to continue. Schalke will also have to be very mindful of away goals because after shipping 3, they will need to win convincingly (or with a ton of goals) to get through to the next round.
If you’re a Schalke fan, you probably just want to skip this section as there’s not much good here. Since the last time I covered this Schalke side, they’ve managed to fall beneath the 14th they last held in the standings. In Schalke’s last six away games, they’ve managed only one win, three draws, and two losses. In their last six overall games in the Bundesliga, they’ve lost 4 and drawn twice. They have a -14 goal difference perfectly split between home and away after scoring barely over one and conceding nearly two goals per game. Also, the advantage they’d held from earlier in the season at home has mostly fallen away, with only a 3 point difference between home and away form. Long story short, Schalke really has a Champions League or nothing sort of season on the line as they are safe from relegation by 4 points (for now). In the 2 Bundesliga games since the two penalty goals against Manchester City, they haven’t scored a single goal.
Schalke has only two goals scored away from home on about 12 shots (but at home, they have six goals on 11.5 shots). Schalke are fifteenth in the Champions League for shots outside of the box (20), twenty-second for shots taken from the penalty box (22), and nineteenth in shots overall (46) leading to ten goals. In addition to the eight goals Schalke has scored, with zero shots off the crossbar and tied for tenth with 26 of their shots blocked. Schalke are 29th-placed in saves, with 14 total saves across the group stages and the round of 16. Despite their poor goalscoring record, Schalke has not only managed to stay in the competition but have advanced to the final 16. If nothing else, there will be a huge financial boon. Across their three away games so far in the Champions League, Schalke only have two goals to show for it which won’t be nearly enough to get them by the next round unless they can pick it up substantially or Manchester City is willing to give out a few more penalties.
Players to watch:
–Nabil Bentaleb: Bentaleb has basically been the offense this season for Schalke as the top goalscorer in the Champions League and the second most prolific scorer in the Bundesliga. Bentaleb has three of the eight goals that Schalke have managed to score this season in the Champions League including converting two consecutive penalties against City. His importance for the team in the Bundesliga is well-recognized with two of the eleven Man of the Match awards given to the German side. He’s been one of the best players on a team that has struggled mightily in the Bundesliga this season and will need to continue to be for Schalke to continue in the Champions League.
–Daniel Caligiuri: Caligiuri is the top goalscorer in the Bundesliga with four goals and two assists in 23 matches from a defensive position, no less. He hasn’t been able to find any goals or assists in the Champions League to date. He’s been another of the highest performers for a team going through a woeful stretch of form. He needs to perform well to keep his side rolling.
–Weston McKinnie: The young American has only been a member of five of their seven Champions League matches (with an average of only about 60 minutes), but he’s become a valuable member. He’s provided a goal, and an assist along with a number of aerials won in the Champions League games. McKinnie has appeared in 17 of the 24 matches in the Bundesliga where he’s provided an additional goal and three assists. The 20-year old has also managed to receive the Man of the Match award once in both the Champions League and the Bundesliga.
What to expect:
Manchester City doesn’t play the “park the bus game” so I imagine there will be goals scored in this one. Given that Manchester City is on a tear in the league and haven’t had help from Kevin de Bruyne, I think there will be at least a couple City goals. I think Schalke will be forced into a much more attacking focus because they are unlikely to get two penalties to give them the lead, again. It will be all about a balance of how many people to send forward and how to protect themselves against a brutal City counterattack (seriously, Ederson has an assist on the season).
Last Updated: March 11, 2019