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City v Schalke: Expert view

Sergio Aguero running past the Schalke defence

Sergio Aguero running past the Schalke defence

Ahead of Schalke's Champions League last 16, second leg visit to the Etihad tonight we get the lowdown on the Bundesliga side from German football expert Mark Lovell.

A freelance sports journalist based in Germany for more than 20 years and Bayern Munich correspondent for ESPN, Mark knows the Bundesliga inside-out.

Looking ahead to tonight’s last 16 second leg encounter at the Etihad, mancity.com spoke to Mark to get his thoughts on Schalke and the tie…

Mark, how would you assess Schalke’s form going into the game?

They have been struggling. Since the first leg defeat where they played quite well, Schalke lost 4-0 to Fortuna Dusseldorf, 3-0 to Mainz and they scored twice but lost 4-2 to Werder Bremen last Friday so that’s 11 goals conceded in the last three Bundesliga games.

It’s the first time they have conceded so many goals in three league games since 1988 and it's a big worry for them.

READ: Pep Guardiola | We are Champions League teenagers

WATCH: Guardiola | City still have work to do

So they are shipping goals and scoring has been a problem too.  

Schalke's success last season, when they finished second behind Bayern Munich, was built on a secure and stable defence. They were runners-up in the Bundesliga on the back of a lot of 1-0 successes, scoring first and then shutting up shop.

This season they were expected to kick-on and the expectations were far higher but they haven’t been able to meet them.

How do you think Schalke will approach the match?

This is a good game for them in many ways as they are expected to lose. There is no pressure on them. They surprised a lot of people in the first leg as City were in great form and scoring for fun.

Schalke performed well on the night. Obviously, they got the two penalties and Nicolas Otamendi was sent off too but generally they played with more freedom. 

One big positive for them is that they do have Swiss striker Breel Embolo back from injury and he can score goals and I’m sure he will definitely be one to watch.

City team-mates congratulate Sterling on incredible last-minute winner

Highlights

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Schalke v City: Match highlights

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Who are Schalke’s key men?

Their key man is Embolo who came back against Werder Bremen and he is definitely someone to watch. He gives Schalke a lot of power and pace up front which is what they will need.

Embolo had been out since November with a broken foot and Schalke have missed him. He’s really powerful, robust and quick. They brought him from Basle in 2016 and he's still only 22 and is definitely is one to watch.

Where would you say the key areas of the game will be?

Schalke lost the first leg 3-2 so they will have to score which, along with their defence, has also proved a problem in recent weeks. 

The club's director of football has left since the first leg so it has been a tough few weeks but, as I said earlier, Schalke can play with a certain amount of freedom. No-one expects them to go through after the last couple of defeats so the pressure is off to an extent.

What’s the general impression of City over in Germany?

I’m a big admirer of City manager Pep Guardiola and I loved watching his Bayern side play. It took him a while to get his ideas across at City and to bring in the type of defenders and goalkeepers that he wanted.

READ: Which TV channel is City v Schalke on

WATCH: Pep Guardiola | Gundogan is incredible

But now it’s obvious that City have become a formidable machine.

As I say, I really enjoy watching Guardiola's sides play

What’s your prediction?

Well City obviously can go through with a draw not that I expect that though.

I do expect a City win but I don’t think that they will run up a cricket score as they don’t have to.

I just think it will be a comfortable  2-0 win for City.

You can follow Mark on Twitter @LovellLowdown


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