DAVID SMITH - Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Jermaine Jones and Schalke will look to add three points to their Group B total against visiting Hapoel Tel-Aviv while Maurice Edu and Rangers will try to hold off Valencia in Ibrox.
FC Schalke 04 - Hapoel Tel-Aviv
A well-rested Jermaine Jones should get the start for Schalke on Wednesday night as they host Group B cellar team Hapoel Tel-Aviv in a game vital to their chances of a knockout round berth.
Jones was absent from head coach Felix Magath's midfield in their cellar battle with Stuttgart over the weekend, and his presence will be welcome back after the team allowed a pair of goals in the two-all draw.
Their failure to win against the Bundesliga's last-place team was merely a continuation of a disastrous start to the season, during which they have won just once through eight league games.
Their fortunes are looking more promising in Group B play, as they did find the gumption to post a strong 2-0 win over Portuguese powerhouse Benfica in their previous Champions League outing, and they will be confident of continuing the run against hapless Hapoel.
The lone Israeli representative in the competition have had a tough go of things so far, losing their first two games to Benfica and Lyon by a combined 5-1 deficit.
They have posted a lackluster record of three wins, two losses and one draw through the first six games of the Ligat Ha'al season, but are showing signs of improvement with their last two outings both victories.
Hapoel head coach Eli Guttman sees several players missing, as Avihay Yadin is doubtful with an ankle injury, Dedi Ben-Dayan is questionable for his return from a knee problem and Mahran Lala is out for several months due to ruptured knee ligaments.
Schalke have no new injury concerns, with long-term absentees Levan Kenia, Tim Hoogland and Christian Pander still not close to returning to the field.
Rangers FC - Valencia CF
Maurice Edu and Rangers face a tough task to hold off Valencia on Wednesday night as they try to hold onto their piece of first place in Group C.
The Glasgow team is enjoying a flying start to their domestic season with eight wins on the bounce, and will hope to carry the momentum into what will surely be a huge test against the Spanish contenders.
Walter Smith's men have already shown they mean business in their first two games of group play, posting a surprising draw at Old Trafford before taking three points in their subsequent game at Ibrox against Bursapor.
They are tied for lead in the group with Manchester United on four points, and can take a huge step towards securing a spot in the knockout round should they find a way to dispatch of their visitors on Wednesday.
This will be no easy task as Valencia have been one of the better teams in Spain despite having lost leading players David Villa and David Silva in the off-season. Their lone blemish in La Liga came over the weekend when they lost to Barcelona, and are in a tight four-team race at the top of the standings, with one point separating first from fourth.
Smith will be forced to make do without several players; midfielder Lee McCulloch is likely out with a groin injury, defender Kirk Broadfoot is questionable with a foot injury, forward James Beattie has missed extensive time with a thigh injury, and midfielder John Fleck continues to stay on the sidelines with a hamstring injury from pre-season.
Valencia are also without a number of regular contributors to the team. Portuguese defender Miguel is questionable after missing the weekend with a thigh strain, while midfielders Sofiane Feghouli, Mehmet Topal, Joaquín and Hedwiges Maduro are out with various injuries.
Oguchi Onyewu is not a part of AC Milan's squad for the group stage, and did not suit up for their 2-0 loss at Real Madrid on Tuesday night.