Thursday, October 23, 2008

PSG comes to Gelsenkirchen-Schalke perspective

The group stage of the UEFA Cup is about to set sail with the opening match in Gelsenkirchen against PSG.

Publicly Schalke is saying all the "right things" with the standard complimentary talk of the opposition and referring to their experience and pedigree. However it is very clear to even a casual observer that Fred Rutten has designed this club for European competition with a emphasis on defensive control that sometimes gets thrown to the wind in Bundesliga action. Additionally internal discipline has become a focal point as they have tried to rid the club of the cavalier atitude that has been an issue behind the scenes in prior years. This past week Carlos Grossmüller and Gustavo Varela were relegated to the reserve squad for undisclosed "disciplinary reasons" and timing certainly plays its role as the club is making a clear statement that this is business.

Die Königsblauen face what is likely the best club in the group for them to play as PSG's offense hasn't been what you call electrifying this year. While much is said of Ludovic Giuly, Mateja Kežman and Stéphane Sessegnon abilities, last week was the first time they have scored more than a goal in a match. Strategically it appears their manager Paul Le Guen is more committed to "not losing" then going forward and focusing upon limiting their oppositions attack. To add to their problems Ludovic Giuly is out for the match and will severely limit their options.

Fred Rutten, in my opinion, is playing the media a bit with the lack of information regarding injuries and leaving the actual lineup up in the air. At present Schalke has noted that Rafinha, Mladen Krstajić and Christian Pander are all facing match-time fitness tests with the latter doubtful. I've been lead to believe by those in-the-know that Krstajić will be in the lineup but you can expect PSG to try and slow the match into a sluggish kick-ball event and nullify the attacking force and pace of Halil Altıntop, Jefferson Farfán and Kevin Kurányi that they are no match for.