Though the formidable obstacle of titleholders FC Internazionale Milano bars FC Schalke 04's path to a first semi-final appearance in the UEFA Champions League, Manuel Neuer knows the three-time winners are not unbeatable.
It was a lesson he learned, after all, as an excited 11-year-old, who watched his hometown club beat the Nerazzurri on penalties after trading 1-0 home wins in the UEFA Cup final in May 1997.
I saw the first leg of that game at the stadium and the return leg on a giant screen. I remember the match very well," said Neuer, recalling Schalke's eventual 4-1 shoot-out triumph, shortly before he stepped inside the same San Siro arena where that drama unfolded for Monday's training session.
A memory to savour no doubt, though Neuer knows history will count for nothing when the teams line up on Tuesday night. "Schalke won against Inter in 1997 but even if we hope to repeat that good result and to win, that result does not matter now," said the 25-year-old.
Inter lost at home to FC Bayern München in the last round before bouncing back to win in Bavaria and Neuer admits the Serie A side are favourites to reach the last four. That said, Schalke, victors over Valencia CF in the round of 16 and unbeaten in the competition since Matchday 1, are not short on confidence themselves.
"Inter may be the favourites, because they won the title last term, but we won't give up and will try to play well," Neuer said. "Samuel Eto'o is really strong but we are not scared; they have a good attacking line but we have good defenders. We want to go home with a good result."
Ralf Rangnick, the new Schalke coach, would echo those words as he prepares for his first European fixture since taking Felix Magath's place at the helm on 17 March. His prospects are not helped by injuries, though. While Inter are missing only the suspended Lúcio and long-term absentee Walter Samuel, Schalke are without striker Mario Gavranović, midfielders Christoph Moritz and Peer Kluge, and defender Christian Pander.
Yet Neuer, the Germany goalkeeper, remains hopeful. "
Inter are a typical Italian team, they play defensively but it's up to us not to leave them spaces, and we know very well how to handle this kind of football."
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.