FC Twente coach Steve McClaren has warned his side to be wary of the danger posed by UEFA Europa League round of 16 rivals FC Schalke 04, despite the absence of Netherlands forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in the German club's ranks.
Second highest scorer in this season's competition with six strikes and Schalke's all-time leading marksman in Europe, Huntelaar is still feeling the effects of the concussion he suffered when he collided with England's Chris Smalling on international duty last week. The 28-year-old was sorely missed as Schalke lost 2-0 to FC Freiburg in the Bundesliga on Saturday, but McClaren still expects the Gelsenkirchen outfit to pose a serious threat as the teams vie for a quarter-final spot.
"Huntelaar is a world-class goalscorer and of course it's disappointing for Schalke if he can't play," said the Englishman. "Schalke have a very big squad, though, and they can replace him. They have players like Raúl [González] and [Ciprian] Marica, who are very good and experienced too. Our tactics don't depend on Huntelaar. It doesn't matter if he plays or not; we'll use the same tactics."
McClaren oversaw a 2-2 home draw with Schalke during his brief spell at the VfL Wolfsburg helm, and he made it clear he would balk at a similar result on Thursday. "We're playing at home, so it's important to keep a clean sheet, but it won't be easy," he said, before emphasising that Schalke can expect stern opposition. "
We've grown over the last few years and we're now a top team in the Eredivisie, and a side to be respected in Europe."
Indeed, McClaren's charges were in superb form at the weekend as they triumphed 6-2 at title rivals PSV Eindhoven despite playing most of the second half down to ten men – a match watched by Schalke coach Huub Stevens. The Dutchman refused to read too much into that performance, however, after travelling the short distance between Gelsenkirchen and Enschede.
"A match in the Europa League is always something special," he explained. "It's not comparable to the Bundesliga or the Eredivisie." He is nonetheless well aware of the quality in the ranks of the Dutch outfit, who eliminated FC Steaua Bucureşti in the round of 32. "Twente play a very compact style with good organisation, and they have quick strikers."
With that in mind, Stevens will be hoping for a firm display at the back, though he must cope without defensive duo Benedikt Höwedes (thigh) and Christoph Metzelder (hamstring). Meanwhile, Jefferson Farfán is suspended after picking up a yellow card against FC Viktoria Plzeň last time out – when a Huntelaar hat-trick carried the Royal Blues through.
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