PREVIEW: PAOK THESSALONIKI - SCHALKE
It's all on the line for Jermaine Jones and Schalke, who look to avoid major disappointment by qualifying for the Champions League group stage versus Paok Thessaloniki Tuesday night.
Should Jones and Schalke fall it would seem to seal the fate of embattled boss Jens Keller in the wake of mighty struggles this term with a mere single point from three Bundesliga contests, a thoroughly undeserved victory in the German Cup versus an amateur squad and then tying at home in the first leg against Paok a week ago.
When the draw was revealed, Schalke would have been thrilled to see Paok as their opponents as the Greeks have yet to qualify for a group stage, having made it this far only two other times in its history.
Further adding to their underdog status, Paok only made it this far after Ukranian side Metalist Charkiv was disqualified for match fixing.
Paok do have some experience and quality on their roster in former Panathinaikos striker Dimitris Salpingidis and Euro-winner Kostas Katsouranis in defense.
But Paok's biggest asset is their man in charge, head coach Huub Stevens. The former Schalke boss showed off his tactical acumen in the opening leg by making the requisite adjustments to snag an all-important away goal.
Stevens will need all his experience and skills to pull off the upset as the match will be played in an empty stadium for a myriad of crowd infractions including invading the field and setting off and throwing fireworks onto the field stemming from their home match versus Metalist last month.
Kickoff is set for Tuesday night at 21:45 local time in the Toumba stadium in Thessaloniki.