Ever-busy Manchester City – still competing in the Premier League, Champions League and both domestic cups – will continue their four-front fight on Wednesday night with a visit to Germany to kick off a Round of 16 UCL meeting with Schalke.
The tie at the Veltins-Arena comes just five days after City’s 4-1 away victory over Newport City in the FA Cup and precedes a pressure packed Carabao Cup final against Chelsea, set only four days later on Sunday Feb. 24. The visit to Schalke will officially mark the Citizens’ sixth-consecutive UCL knockout stage appearance and the first clash between the two clubs since 2008.
City arrive at the Round of 16 after topping a Group F comprised of Lyon, Hoffenheim and Shakhtar Donetsk. Pep Guardiola’s side stormed through the group stage, sending themselves forward with 13 points amassed and 16 total goals to just conceded. Returned to potent form and back atop the Premier League table after a December dip, Manchester City appear poised for a thunderous challenge toward the Champions League final in Madrid.
Schalke, on the other hand, will limp into their first Round of 16 appearance since 2015 following a 0-0 draw with SC Freiburg on Saturday. The side from Gelsenkirchen have been snake bitten by injuries and poor form in domestic competition, and enter Champions League knockout play sitting 14th in the Bundesliga and just eight points above a spot in Germany’s relegation play-off.
Schalke’s journey to the Round of 16 began in Group D where they defeated Galatasaray and Lokomotiv Moscow (twice) to finish as runners-up to FC Porto.
Benjamin Mendy (knee) and Vincent Kompany (muscle) were each deemed unfit and did not appear in City’s FA Cup tie over the weekend. The pair, along with back up keeper Claudio Bravo (achilles), are featured in the club’s UCL squad but their respective statuses for Wednesday’s clash are still uncertain.
Schalke, meanwhile, will once again be without the trio of Benjamin Stambouli (cheek bone), Steven Skrzybski (muscle tear) and Alessandro Schopf (knee), who’ve been missing from the squad since a Jan. 26 meeting with Hertha Berlin. Breel Embolo, sidelined since November by a foot fracture, remains out as well.
Just days after making his first Bundesliga start over the weekend, former Manchester City winger Rabbi Matondo could face his former side in what would be his Champions League debut. The 18-year old Welshman who spent two and a half seasons in Manchester moved to the German side for £8.10 million in the January window.
Undermanned and underpowered, Schalke must hope to keep City close and limit their away goals in order to maintain any hope in the second leg at the Etihad Stadium on March 13, with the Champions League betting markets having the Germans as 19/2 underdogs. City, engaged in a tight title battle with Liverpool and Tottenham, could give themselves breathing room and a chance to keep their focus on the Premier League with a decisive victory.
Wednesday’s match is set to kick off at 20:00 GMT, and will be televised on BT Sport 2.