Champions League rolling blog: 25 April

The sun has set on a glorious spring day in Gelsenkirchen, and our live blog. Read what the key men had to say, then join us on Tuesday for all the build-up to both semi-final first legs.
Published: Monday 25 April 2011, 20.40CET

Champions League rolling blog: 25 April

The sun has set on a glorious spring day in Gelsenkirchen, and our live blog. Read what the key men had to say, then join us on Tuesday for all the build-up to both semi-final first legs.

Manchester United FC's visit to FC Schalke 04 kicks off this week's UEFA Champions League semi-final first legs, before FC Barcelona go to Real Madrid CF on Wednesday.

UEFA.com's team of reporters will bring you all the latest from Gelsenkirchen and Madrid as the week progresses.

Monday 20.30, Simon Hart in Gelsenkirchen
The sun is setting on a glorious spring day here in Gelsenkirchen as the press working area inside the Arena Aufschalke starts to empty. This time tomorrow this place will be awash with colour and anticipation in the build-up to kick-off with the Schalke fans wondering whether the underdogs can pull off an upset and take a step closer to their first ever final. Sir Alex Ferguson, of course, with an eye on making more history with United, will have other ideas. Join us on Tuesday from 10.00CET for all the build-up.

Monday 20.08, Paul Bryan in Madrid
Andrés Iniesta has appeared before the media in Barcelona and admitted that although he is "dreaming of playing at Wembley" in the UEFA Champions League final on 28 May, he expected his team's last-four encounter with Real Madrid to be "very tough". The FIFA World Cup winner with Spain explained: "We are going into this tie with a positive mentality and full of hope especially as we are so close to being in another final. I don't care if I don't score or even if I don't play, just as long as we get there."

Monday 19.00, Simon Hart in Gelsenkirchen
Sir Alex Ferguson, in his press conference, admitted that his team are in a good moment going into tomorrow's semi-final test and not just because of Wayne Rooney. "Wayne's form has been fantastic these last two months and the most important thing for us is the freshness has come into the team in the last few weeks with players coming back like [Antonio] Valencia, [Rio] Ferdinand, Anderson and Park Ji-Sung."

This is United's seventh UEFA Champions League semi-final under the Scot and he believes his current crop have the experience to go on and win the trophy. "I think the present group have enough experience now in Europe. It is where we should be; the expectation from my point of view has always been high as regards the European scene, because you do get envious of other clubs' record in Europe and we are trying to come to parity with that – in other words Real Madrid, AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Ajax, Liverpool and we need to progress quickly to get to that level again."

Monday 18.40, Simon Hart in Gelsenkirchen
Van der Sar highlighted the threat of Raúl González, his fellow UEFA Champions League veteran, as he addressed the gathered international media, saying: "He is not someone you can take your eye off because he is so dangerous and only needs a little chance to score a goal, our defence will have to be on their toes when they play against him."

Monday 18.01, Paul Bryan in Madrid
Víctor Valdés celebrated his 400th appearance in goal for Barcelona in their 2-0 triumph at home to CA Osasuna last weekend and is now just ten short of the club record for a goalkeeper, which is held by Barça sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta. Looking ahead to Wednesday's opener in the Spanish capital, the 29-year-old said that it was important his team tried to play their "own game" at the Santiago Bernabéu. "The key for us will be keeping possession, making quick pass after pass until the goal chances arrive," he explained.

Monday 17.05, Steffen Potter in Gelsenkirchen
We hear that Edwin van der Sar will attend the United conference (which starts at 18.00) along with Sir Alex Ferguson. The Dutch keeper is looking to win the UEFA Champions League for the third time, having previously done so with Ajax (1995) and United (2008), before retiring at the end of the season.

Monday 16.35, Steffen Potter in Gelsenkirchen
Schalke defender Benedikt Höwedes was already struggling to be fit for tomorrow's game but must now be considered a serious doubt. He began training with the side at 16.00 but was visibly holding back during the warm-up and sat out the bulk of the session, holding close discussions with Ralf Rangnick and his coaching staff throughout. He is likely to be given one last chance to prove his availability tomorrow morning.

Monday 16.25, Paul Bryan in Madrid
Speaking ahead of his team's behind-closed-doors training session later this afternoon, Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos said the atmosphere within the Merengues's dressing room was "more united than ever". The Spain defender also talked about the mood of coach José Mourinho who, he says, "is very relaxed as always".

He added: "If there's something you can be sure of it's that he won't change his philosophy, his style or his habits. He has very clear ideas and that means we're going to continue working in the same way, regardless of Wednesday's rivals."

Monday 15.10, Steffen Potter in Gelsenkirchen
Ralf Rangnick is in no doubt as to the magnitude of his Schalke side's meeting with United. Speaking at this afternoon's press conference, he described it as his "biggest game". Underdogs they may be, but Rangnick pinpointed plenty of reason for Schalke optimism. "Our team is a bit younger and hopefully more hungry to make up for their lack of experience," he said. "Our passion and discipline has helped us against Inter and I hope it will do so again against United."

Monday 14.53, Simon Hart en route to Gelsenkirchen
The first sight greeting me on my plane's approach to Dusseldorf airport was the Fortuna Düsseldorf Arena, complete with big red banner advertising the 2011 Eurovision song contest that will take place there next month. It is a different kind of European glory that is focusing the attention in this part of Germany.

There was no sign of any of the 2,710 travelling United supporters on my journey from Manchester although one English face greeted me when I picked up a copy of the Bild tabloid – the smiling Kate Middleton, or "Prinzessin Happy" (Princess Happy) as the front-page headline put it. Will we see more smiling English faces here tomorrow, or will the Royal Blues of Schalke be celebrating in Royal Wedding week?

Monday 14.35, London
United have confirmed that striker Dimitar Berbatov will not feature against Schalke on Tuesday having failed to recover from the groin problem that saw the Bulgarian sit out his side's last two Premier League games. Midfielders Darren Fletcher and Owen Hargreaves are also missing, along with Bébé, but John O'Shea makes the flight to Germany despite carrying a knock.

Monday 14.24, Steffen Potter in Gelsenkirchen
Defender Atsuto Uchida is hoping to persuade his mother and father to stay up late for the chance of watching their son in action for Schalke in Tuesday's semi-final opener against United. Delighted to be the first Japanese player to compete in the last four of Europe's top club competition, but his success is likely to inconvenience his family. "There is a problem for my parents," he said in Schalke's pre-match press conference. "The game airs so early morning in Japan that they will have to get up in the middle of the night."

Signed from Kashima Antlers last summer, Uchida has settled in well in Germany. "I said at the beginning of this season that I would have to feel at home in Germany to produce and that has happened," explained the 23-year-old. "I have found many friends in the team and have got used to living in Germany. So far, I have not felt homesick and that has helped me a lot. I believe I am playing so much better now."

Monday 14.18, Steffen Potter in Gelsenkirchen
"Being nervous is normal," said Christoph Metzelder as he addressed the press at Schalke's pre-match conference. "I have been a footballer for quite a few years now, but you still get that feeling. It is a very special day for the club and us as a team. There are so many journalists here from all over the world; the entire football world is looking at Gelsenkirchen."

The central defender is aware of how tough his side's challenge will be as they bid to keep Wayne Rooney at bay. "In the return leg against Chelsea, Rooney played as a central striker, a playmaker and sometimes even as a holding midfielder; he dropped deep to lose his markers, he was very agile and we have to defend properly against him when he is between the lines."

Inexperience may be Schalke's biggest disadvantage, but as they bid to follow up the elimination of FC Internazionale Milano by ousting the English champions, Metzelder felt positive. "With the exception of Raúl, most of our players are not used to playing in several competitions at once," he explained. "After the return leg against Inter I said that I couldn't imagine United letting us put five goals past them. That will be the most significant difference. They are a team with a good basic discipline who do not give anything away."

Monday 13.30, Steffen Potter in Gelsenkirchen
Schalke defender Christoph Metzelder has been speaking to the assembled media and admits the Bundesliga side face a tough task to keep their European run going. "We have to be realistic", he said. "We are the apparent lightweights in the last four but that's a role we have played well so far."

Monday 13.00, London
Though well set to reclaim their Liga crown, maintaining an eight-point gap over Madrid at the weekend, Barcelona are underdogs for their trip to the Spanish capital according to Josep Guardiola. Madrid have "earned the tag of favourites", he said.

Monday 12.05, London
UEFA.com has an exclusive interview with former Madrid and Barcelona winger Luís Figo ahead of the latest Clásico. The Portuguese claims the Liga powerhouses are "the two best teams in the world at the moment" and expects their semi-final tie to "go down in the history books".

In the other last-four fixture, Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick admits he cannot wait to "meet an absolute icon" in the shape of Manchester United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson.

Monday 11.50, Paul Bryan in Madrid
Gonzalo Higuaín and Kaká, who have both had injury problems this season, scored three and two goals respectively in Madrid's 6-3 win against Valencia CF on Saturday. Indeed, El País suggests the pair's unexpected form and fitness could prove pivotal against the Merengues' great rivals.

Barcelona daily Sport, meanwhile, dissects the Azulgrana's problems at the back under the headline 'New Defence'. Éric Abidal and Adriano are certainly out, while doubts over Gabriel Milito and Maxwell mean Josep Guardiola may have to field a back four of Daniel Alves, Javier Mascherano, Gerard Piqué and Carles Puyol. "There is no hiding the reality, Barcelona look like they are heading into one of their most important games of the season without a recongnised left-back," the publication notes.

Monday 11.15, London
In the English press, The Times praises Manuel Neuer as a "self-assured, elastic-limbed shot-stopper". It goes on to state that Schalke's "full-backs forage down the wings to offer width to attacks", suggesting United could exploit resulting gaps on the counterattack.

Monday 11.00, Steffen Potter in Gelsenkirchen
Essen-based daily paper WAZ carries news that Schalke striker Raúl González, a scorer in the quarter-finals, is keen on extending his contract. The publication describes the visit of United as an "an incredible opportunity for the club" and says that "a crackling sense of expectation lies over the city". It adds: "Never before have the Royal Blues been involved in such a game".

Indeed, the anticipation is building. Schalke flags can already be seen fluttering out of windows on a pleasant, sunny day in Gelsenkirchen.

Monday 10.40, London
Closing in on the Premier League title, United go to Schalke on Tuesday hoping to continue their impressive defensive form. Their hosts continue to struggle domestically but have been rejuvenated under the returning Ralf Rangnick. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has been reminiscing about the last time he was involved in such a high-profile fixture.

Buoyant under José Mourinho, Madrid still trail Barcelona in the Liga but will have been boosted by their Copa del Rey triumph over Josep Guardiola's consummate performers. Furthermore, Barça have been hampered by the news that Gabriel Milito (calf) and Maxwell (groin) are struggling to be fit after sustaining injuries at the weekend.

Monday 10.30, London
Do not forget to get involved in our Predictor competition this week, while tickets will be on offer in our Player Rater feature during the games. Prizes are also available to win in Play of the Day later in the week. Visit the Ford Classics page and enter the Champions Quiz for the chance to go to this season's final.

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Last updated: 30/11/12 14.20CET