The quest for Champions League success resumes for Manchester City as they travel to Germany to take on Schalke on Wednesday.
Just four days on from their FA Cup victory against Newport County, Pep Guardiola’s men will be looking to build a lead to bring back to Manchester in three weeks’ time as they chase an unprecedented quadruple success this season.
Despite the German side struggling domestically this season, sitting fifth from bottom and not yet safe from relegation, City must still guard against any complacency.
Guardiola is expected to field several changes from the side that lined up in the FA Cup this weekend – but what can City expect from their German counterparts?
Manager Domenico Tedesco led his side to a hugely successful first season at the Veltins Arena in 2017/18, finishing Bundesliga runners-up. However, this season, it’s turned sour. They come into this game winning just one of their previous five matches.
Tedesco looks to set up his side usually playing with three at the back, which switches to five when opponents have the ball. The defence is usually protected either by one or two holding midfielders. There is then a big emphasis on the wingers to create opportunities for two strikers leading the attack.
Despite playing two strikers, a big issue for the home side has been their lack of goals.
Their total of 284 shots this season does rank them inside the Bundesliga top ten for shots on goal, and their Expected Goal (xG) total in the league this season is 32.27. Yet they have scored just 25 league goals. This suggests they are creating chances – but have been extremely wasteful in front of goal.
A further struggle for Schalke has been their home form this season. They have picked up just 13 points from their 11 home league games so far in the Bundesliga, with only the league’s bottom four possessing a poorer home record.
City’s lethal attack should be granted plenty of opportunities on goal too. Only two other Bundesliga sides have been forced into more saves than Schalke goalkeeper Ralf Fahrmann with 77 this season.
Despite the number of chances prescribed to the opposition, Schalke’s defence has held together fairly well; only six league sides have conceded fewer than them this season. This is reiterated by their Expected Goals Against (xGA). Their xGA total is 31.18 this season, and they’ve conceded 32, meaning they have largely conceded the goals they should have, given the quality of chances offered up.
Away from the domestic competition, the Champions League has been a welcome distraction for Schalke. Like City, they only lost one game during the group stages. But City shouldn’t expect their opponents to try to out-play them on Wednesday.
Their average pass completion of just 80% is the third-lowest in the Champions League this season and they average just 47% possession of the ball per game. For comparison, City are the leaders in this department in this season’s competition with both pass completion success at 90% and average ball possession at 59%.
One player City will want to keep a tab on over the two legs is teenager Ahmed Kutucu. The 18-year-old Turkish midfielder has two goals in his previous three games and does seem destined to play a big part in the German side’s season.