Athletic Club vs. Schalke 04  2 - 2

Article

Raul looks for successful Spain return

5 April 2012 05:03

Raul scored more than 200 goals in 16 years with Real Madrid but the 34-year-old is on a new mission in Spain.

Raul is with Schalke, who face the daunting task of trying to overturn a 4-2 first leg Europa League quarter final deficit against team-of-the-moment Athletic Bilbao.

"It was an honour to play at the San Mames with Real Madrid because they always were emotional and exciting games," he said.

"For me this stadium is special because of the atmosphere the supporters create and to have another chance to play here with Schalke makes me so happy."

"I hope to provide some great entertainment and the same sort of game as in the first leg. Although our chances of qualifying are slim, we're going to start from the beginning, trying to score and creating the chances I will need."

The one glimmer of hope for Schalke is Bilbao's poor recent league form - the Basque side have lost four of their last five in La Liga.

But with four away goals from the first game in Gelsenkirchen, Marcelo Bielsa's side ought to have done enough to reach the last four.

In another German-Spain tussle, Hannover 96 will be slight favourites against Atletico Madrid at the AWD Arena.

They trail 2-1 from the first leg, but Mame Diouf's away goal could prove priceless.

They're also tough to beat at home, having lost just once there all season, in the German Cup.

Head coach Mirko Slomka believes Atletico will try to put another dent in that enviable record.

"I don't think that Atletico Madrid will play defensively," he said.

"I have seen them several times and on none of those occasions did they focus on defence. They had always two dangerous full backs, like Juan Fran who will be probably be replaced by a more defensively-minded player, but they will have at least four attacking players on the pitch, who have huge quality.

"Especially Diego, who scored for Atletico in their weekend win. He was very agile against us. The way they set up is not defensive. They like to keep possession, so we can take advantage of the space they might leave."

Atletico have only lost one of their seven away games in this year's Europa League - if they extend that to eight, they'll be through to the last four.

Brazilian playmaker Diego has the ability to win this tie for the Spaniards, but he admits it won't be easy.

"We have an advantage, but we need to make sure we play intelligently. We'll be playing to win and I hope we can do it," he said.

"Hannover are a strong team. We saw how good they were when we played them at home. The game at their ground tomorrow night will definitely be tricky with their fans behind them."

Elsewhere, despite trailing 2-1, Valencia will be favourites to beat Eredivisie leaders AZ at the Mestalla.

And Metalist Kharkiv trail Sporting by the same score going into their second leg in the Ukraine.


Article

Europa League preview: Bilbao aim to continue dream run

4 April 2012 05:05

Athletic Bilbao are poised to reach the Europa League semi-finals, while domestic rivals Valencia and Atletico Madrid are in delicate ties.

Marcelo Bielsa's men are enjoying a dream run in the UEFA competition, after they won five of six group games before beating Lokomotiv Moscow and Manchester United to reach the final eight.

Should they avoid a two-goal loss to Bundesliga side Schalke on Thursday, they will reach the final four and play the winner of Sporting Lisbon and Metalist Kharkiv.

And they will not even be thinking about defeat given their form in Europe, after they put four goals past Schalke in Germany to take a commanding 4-2 advantage heading to the Estadio San Mames.

Their domestic form might have taken a hit at the expense of their European success - Bilbao are 11th, nine points behind fourth-placed Valencia - but Bielsa's side are firing in the Europa League.

Bilbao have lost four of their past five in La Liga, but have score nine goals in their past three European outings over Manchester United (twice) and Schalke.

It was their late run at Schalke that was most imposing - they trailed 2-1 with 17 minutes remaining before storming home to take a stranglehold on the tie.

The Spanish league has a strong say in the Europa tournament, with Valencia needing to overcome a 2-1 deficit when they host AZ Alkmaar.

Unai Emery's side have scored in each of their past four encounters, but their shonky defence has seen them fail to win all four.

While a 1-0 win is all they need, it seems unlikely given they have kept just two clean sheets in their past 10 in all competitions.

AZ dropped off the top of the Eredivisie table on Sunday, but ended their 2-2 draw with Vitesse feeling somewhat confident after playing the last half-hour minus Australian midfielder Brett Holman after he was sent off.

Atletico Madrid are the third La Liga side still alive in the Europa League, and they will take a 2-1 lead to their away leg at Hannover.

Madrid maintained their momentum after the first leg with a 3-0 win over Getafe, and are primed to try and emulate their success in the tournament when they won the inaugural edition in 2010.

Hannover will also be confident after a league win over Borussia Moenchengladbach, as they hope to continue their unprecedented dream run in Europe.

In the only quarter-final not featuring a Spanish side, Ukrainian team Metalist Kharkiv will host Sporting Lisbon, attempting to turn around a 2-1 deficit.

Lisbon have conceded just once in their past 270 minutes, but that came at the hands of Kharkiv, giving Myron Markevych's men hope of continuing the club's best-ever run in European competition.

Primera División table

# Team MP D P
13 1 +0 1
14 1 -1 0
15 1 -1 0
16 1 -1 0
17 1 -2 0

Bundesliga table

# Team MP D P
12 1 +0 1
13 1 +0 1
14 1 -1 0
15 1 -1 0
16 1 -1 0