No shake-up for Schalke

Ian Ogg previews Wednesday night's Champions League qualifiers, including Arsenal's visit to Fenerbahce.

Last Updated: 21/08/13 at 19:06 Post Comment

Jefferson Farfan can help Schalke progress to the Group stages

Jefferson Farfan can help Schalke progress to the Group stages

Saturday's defeat at home to Aston Villa was compounded by Laurent Koscielny's red card and several players picking up knocks as the Arsenal squad is already beginning to look threadbare with the season barely underware.

Oh for a signing, any signing will do. As Arsene Wenger, apparently, continues to work hard in pursuit of the 'right' targets in the transfer market, Wednesday's trip to Fenerbahce could prove absolutely crucial in helping to secure the talent that Wenger deems suitable.

It's not been a great start to the season for their Turkish opponents who lost in extra-time to Galatasaray in the Super Cup and then let slip a two goal lead away at Torku Konyaspor who claimed the points with strikes in the 76th, 78th and 86th minutes.

Arsenal are marginal favourites to win the away leg and clear favourites to go through to the group stages and the Gunners may well be able to do so. After all, they seem able to confound their critics time and time again in this competition.

Fenerbahce were knocked out at this stage 12 months ago and could find that the same fate awaits them again but I certainly couldn't back Arsenal to do the business on Wednesday at 8/5.

A more solid proposition could be backing both sides to score. Everyone knows about the strengths and weaknesses of the Arsenal side but both teams have netted in every game the Turks have played this season and both sides struck in each of the four games they played in this competition last year.

That eventuality is around 8/13 but isn't sufficiently tempting to encourage a wager.

Elsewhere, Schalke should really prove too strong for PAOK Saloniki despite a modest start to their Bundesliga season and they can be doubled with Dynamo Zagreb.

Schalke drew with Hamburg before getting stuffed by Wolfsburg but have a proven pedigree in this competition and it's best to view their latest result as a blip.

That's certainly the view that the bookmakers have taken in chalking them up at odds-on prices and they should have far too much quality for the Greeks who are only lining up here as Metalist Kharkiv - their conquerors in the previous round - are banned for links to match-fixing.

Unlike Schalke, Zagreb have been in terrific form having won eight and drawn three of their games in all competitions.

They may struggle in the Group stage once again but they have reached that stage for the last two seasons and should prove capable of doing so for a third successive campaign.

Their opponents, Austria Vienna, currently lie fifth in the Austrian Bundesliga having made a shaky start to their title defence and they won't find life any easier in Croatia.

Phillip Hosiner has scored at almost a goal a game since joining in the summer of 2011 which should provide them with a greater threat than when they were last seen in Europe in the Europe League in 2011 where they went out at the group stages after finishing third.

Zagreb, however, haven't lost at home in the league since the 2010/11 season and, while they can't boast such a formidable record against superior opposition in Europe, the Maksimir Stadium is an intimidating place to visit.

They have posted eight successive home wins in Champions League qualifying and should be backed to make it nine against a side seeking to qualify for the Group stages for the first time.


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