Rafinha ready for Schalke's big night out

Rafinha is gearing up for FC Schalke 04's "most important game of the year" as they prepare to take on FC Porto for a place in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.

Rafinha is focused on the task at hand
Rafinha is focused on the task at hand ©Getty Images

Having successfully shackled FC Porto's Ricardo Quaresma for much of the first leg in Gelsenkirchen, FC Schalke 04 right-back Rafinha is looking for a repeat performance as his side defend a 1-0 advantage at the Estádio do Dragão.

'Great player'
Rafinha was as responsible as any of the Schalke back line for keeping the Portuguese champions at bay in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round a fortnight ago, limiting Quaresma's attacking influence to set-pieces. Yet the Brazilian insists it would be a bad move for his team to focus all their attentions on Porto's high-profile winger. "We are aware of what quality their whole team have, not just Quaresma," he said. "We won't be concentrating solely on him, even if he is a great player."

Nancy lesson
The defender remains modest about his own first-leg display, saying there was "no secret to it" when asked for his formula for stopping Quaresma, while underlining the collective effort involved. "We managed to stop their other good players as well," the 22-year-old pointed out. "We worked really hard and played well." Their reward was an invaluable clean sheet. However, mindful perhaps of last season's UEFA Cup first-round exit to AS Nancy-Lorraine – when the German side lost 3-2 on aggregate despite winning the first match 1-0 at the AufSchalke – Rafinha is keen to stress that Schalke's job is only half done. "We've only played 90 minutes," he warned. "We will have to pay close attention because Porto are strong at home. We know it will take another big effort."

Pivotal match
After agonisingly losing out to VfB Stuttgart in the Bundesliga title race on the final day of last term, Schalke are struggling to meet domestic expectations this time around – Saturday's home defeat by FC Bayern München leaves them sixth, 12 points behind the leaders. It makes the Porto match all the more vital. "It's the most important game of the year," said Rafinha. "It will be a very difficult fixture and we have to treat it like a final. If we don't make mistakes and we can score, of course we can go through."

Top