BY DAN KARELL
Two months ago, the world seemed to revolve around Barcelona, with AC Milan one of the many asteroids, rocketing through the sky with no fixed direction or motive.
But in the present time, the picture has been flipped. It’s Barcelona now that is struggling, out of the Copa Del Rey, and down 2-0 to Milan going into today’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg, while the Italian side is within two points of second-placed Napoli in Serie A, and have not lost in ten matches.
In densely populated northwest Germany, Schalke 04 hosts Didier Drogba and Galatasaray. The Turkish side lost their last match, ruing a missed penalty kick by Drogba, but they come in the healthier side, as the Germans will be missing a hand full of players for the match at the Veltins Arena. 19-year-old German international Julian Draxler played in his 100th match for Schalke last week, and is likely to lead his club on the field against Galatasaray.
The two teams drew in Istanbul in the first leg, giving the slight advantage to Schalke for the Tuesday’s tie, but the match should be as open as ever, with both sides looking for goals.
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has raised the stakes of the match, calling on the supporters to back the team, or hand in their membership cards. The pressure has been rising in the heart of Catalonia, and this match could be one to right the ship for the home side, or make a late season title challenge for the visitors.
Here’s a closer look at today’s round of 16 matches:
BARCELONA VS. AC MILAN
3:45pm, Fox Soccer Channel
Players to Watch: BARCELONA: Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol; AC MILAN: Kevin Prince-Boateng, Stephen El-Sharaawy, Antonio Nocerino, Ricardo Montolivo.
Quick Kicks: Xavi returns from injury for Barcelona, while AC Milan loses forward Giampaolo Pazzini to a leg injury, forcing the side to move parts around. Mbaye Niang could take Pazzini’s place in the lineup, or El Sharaaway could move inside, with Bojan playing as a winger. The Italian’s will likely come out very defensive, and hope to shut out Lionel Messi again, after doing so at the San Siro.
SCHALKE 04 VS. GALATASARAY
3:45pm, Fox Soccer Plus
Players to Watch: SCHALKE 04: Julian Draxler, Michel Bastos, Jefferson Farfan, Bendikt Howedes; GALATASARAY: Didier Drogba, Wesley Sneijder, Hamit Altintop, Burak Yilmaz.
Quick Kicks: Schalke suffered a blow, losing starting striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to a torn MCL, forcing him to miss the next two months of action, and possibly miss the rest of the season. The German side will also be without the services of Jermaine Jones, who is suspended, and Ibrahim Affelay, Ciprian Marica, and Kyriakos Papadopoulos will all miss the match with injury. Galatasaray nearly has a full squad, though they will be missing forward Johan Elmander.
What do you think of today’s matches? Feel that Barcelona can complete the comeback? Do you see Drogba scoring today?
Share your thoughts below.