CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI-FINAL, FIRST LEG
Venue: Veltins-Arena Date: Tuesday 26 April Kick-off: 1945 BST
Coverage: BBC Sport website, BBC Radio 5 live and live on Sky Sports 2
Manchester United will be without top scorer Dimitar Berbatov for Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg at German side Schalke 04.
The Bulgarian is still hampered by the groin strain which caused him to miss Saturday’s league win over Everton.
The striker was unlikely to start the game in Germany, but his absence denies United a potent attacking substitute.
Red Devils boss Sir Alex Ferguson says he has no new injury concerns ahead of the encounter at the Veltins-Arena.
Captain and centre-back Nemanja Vidic and midfielder Park Ji-Sung were rested for Saturday’s match and should return to the side.
Full-back Patrice Evra and midfielder Michael Carrick were among the substitutes at Old Trafford – the former coming on in the second half – and should also be back in the starting line-up for Wednesday.
Midfielder Ryan Giggs also came off the bench against Everton and should start, making him the British player with most apperances in all European competitions (excluding Intertoto Cup matches).
Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar can also achieve a couple of notable personal milestones by equalling former Chelsea and Real Madrid midfielder Claude Makelele’s record of 13 Champions League semi-final appearances and potentially becoming the first goalkeeper to keep 50 clean sheets in the competition.
In the absence of 22-goal leading scorer Berbatov, Ferguson can continue with the effective pairing of Wayne Rooney and £6m summer signing Javier Hernandez in attack.
The pair have scored 32 goals between them this season, with Mexican Hernandez scoring his 19th to secure Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Everton at Old Trafford, which kept them in pole position to secure a record 19th Premier League title.
However, Rooney will not remember his last trip to Gelsenkirchen with any fondness as he was sent off during England’s World Cup quarter-final defeat by Portugal in 2006.
United – who are unbeaten in this season’s Champions League – are overwhelming favourites to beat Schalke and book a Wembley showdown with either Real Madrid or Barcelona in the final on 28 May.
This is United’s 12th European Cup semi-final and the fourth time they have reached this stage of the competition in the last five seasons.
Defender John O’Shea believes that United – who have won the trophy three times in their history, the last coming in 2008 – can draw on this experience against Schalke.
“We have to make sure we show them our history, why we have got to finals, why we have won them, why we have been in this situation many times before,” said O’Shea.
“We have to impose ourselves whilst understanding the threats they have, which we will have to cope with.”
In the past, United have not fared well against German opposition at this stage in the competition, twice facing teams from the country in a semi-final and twice losing: to Borussia Dortmund in 1996-97 and Bayer Leverkusen in 2001-02.
In contrast to United, this is Schalke’s first appearance in a European Cup semi-final, their previous best being two quarter-final appearances in 1958-59 and 2007-08.
Also unlike United, Schalke have struggled domestically this season and are languishing in 10th place in the Bundesliga.
Last month, the club sacked manager Felix Magath and replaced him with Ralf Rangnick, but this did not hamper their impressive form in Europe as they hammered holders Inter Milan 7-3 on aggregate to set up the semi-final clash with United.
Although they were beaten for the first time under Rangnick on Saturday, going down 1-0 at home to Kaiserslautern, albeit having fielded a weakened team, they are unbeaten in this season’s Champions League since losing to Lyon in their opening group game.
“We are favourites which adds a bit of pressure, but any side who can score so many goals against Inter Milan has to have something about them,” added O’Shea.
“We have to use our experience to quieten their crowd down. An away goal is always nice but it is not the be all and end all.
“We know if we are in sight when we come back to Old Trafford, we will have a great chance.”
Thank : bbc.co.uk