DAVID SMITH - Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Jermaine Jones will do his best to help Schalke break free of their current slump when they face Turkish opponents Galatasaray in the first leg of their Champions Leg playoff.
Galatasaray - FC Schalke 04
With only one victory since the turn of the new year, Jermaine Jones and Schalke will need to get their act together if they hope to avoid disappointment on their trip to Galatasaray's Turk Telekom Arena in Istanbul on Wednesday evening.
After beginning the new year with a wild win over Hannover, Schalke have been by all accounts a shadow of their usual imperious selves.
The failure to pick up a win in either of their games against relegation bound teams Augsburg and Fürth on consecutive weekends was only topped by a subsequent 4-0 blowout at Bayern.
The heroics of on-loan winger Michel Bastos did allow them to rescue a point in their most recent game against Mainz, however they must further improve against the reigning Turkish champions or they will face a tough second-leg in three weeks' time.
Galatasaray raised their profile considerably during the winter transfer period, signing Dutch maestro Wesley Sneijder and Ivorian superstar Didier Drogba, and are slowly seeing both players become centerpieces on the field.
Schalke will be particularly wary of Drogba, as he single-handedly killed fellow German team Bayern's shot at winning the Champions League final in Munich last year with a last-second equalizer and the deciding shot in the final penalty shootout.
Sneijder has also been responsible for inflicting emotion pain on Schalke's Bavarian compatriots on multiple occasions while in the Inter Milan uniform, although more recently he was on the wrong end of a 5-2 aggregate loss to Schalke in the quarterfinals of this competition two years ago.
Even with the return of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and the wizard-like play of Bastos, Schalke have considerable injury woes heading into the game.
In addition to usual starting keeper Lars Unnerstall, defender Atsuto Uchida, midfielder Ibrahim Afellay, defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos and forward Ciprian Marica are all out with various injuries.
Furthermore, January signing Raffael is ineligible to play in the Champions League having already suited up for Ukrainian club Dynamo Kiev in the group stage.
Galatasaray should only be missing defender Tomáš Ujfaluši, who is still out for several more weeks with a cartilage tear in his left knee.
Oguchi Onyewu was not in uniform for Malaga on Tuesday night as they lost 1-0 at FC Porto.