The sole survivor of the FC Internazionale Milano team which succumbed to FC Schalke 04 in the 1997 UEFA Cup final, Javier Zanetti has good reason not to take the German club lightly when the sides meet in the quarter-finals.
Inter dramatically eliminated Schalke's domestic rivals FC Bayern München on away goals this week to reach the last eight of the UEFA Champions League. With Bayern 12 points ahead of the Gelsenkirchen outfit in Germany, the form book would suggest Inter have already negotiated the more difficult of the two Bundesliga assignments.
Zanetti − who was in his second season at San Siro when the teams met 14 years ago − is not entertaining such talk, however: "We must respect Schalke because they will give us two tough games like all the other teams," said the Nerazzurri captain. "We must be careful because nobody reaches the quarter-finals through luck."
Of the two-legged final, which Schalke won 4-1 on spot kicks after a 1-0 win apiece for each team, the 37-year-old added: "
I was very angry after losing the final against them on penalties but now I remember that game with a smile on my face because a lot of time has passed since then. Now we have the chance to take revenge and reach the semi-finals."
The scorer of the decisive late goal in the second leg against Bayern, Goran Pandev is looking forward to returning to Germany for the tie's conclusion on 13 April. "It will be very difficult, especially the return leg, because the atmosphere is always very hot there," explained the striker.
Schalke's Manuel Neuer, meanwhile, is pleased to be playing the first instalment at San Siro on 5 April, but is wary of Inter's second-leg achievement versus Bayern after the holders lost initially in Milan. "It could be an advantage to play away first," said the goalkeeper. "On the other hand, the round of 16 should be a warning to us."
The tie will be Schalke's third meeting with Inter − they lost to the Beneamata in the 1998 UEFA Cup quarter-finals − and fourth trip to San Siro, having lost 3-2 to AC Milan in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League group stage. They will also have a new coach in charge for the tie after Ralf Rangnick replaced Felix Magath, who left the club on Wednesday.
Jefferson Farfán, whose double against Valencia CF in the previous round was vital to Schalke's progress, acknowledges that his side will start as underdogs but insists nothing is "impossible". "The two matches will be very, very difficult," stressed the Peru forward.
Inter are the defending champions and have many world-class players in their ranks, but it is a good draw for a quarter-final. It will be very difficult to reach the next round but not impossible."
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