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Raúl wary of Valencia as Schalke eye last eight

Raúl González warned his team-mates that last-16 rivals Valencia CF could be "even more dangerous" away from home as FC Schalke 04 look to build on a first-leg draw in Spain.

Raúl wary of Valencia as Schalke eye last eight
Raúl wary of Valencia as Schalke eye last eight ©UEFA.com

Nobody in the FC Schalke 04 squad knows Valencia CF better than Raúl González so his team-mates should take heed of the striker when he warns the Bundesliga club to discount the notion they hold the upper hand at the halfway stage of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie.

Although Schalke earned a 1-1 draw at Valencia in the first leg on 15 February, Raúl believes Unai Emery's side could prove a tougher prospect in Germany. "I expect them to be even more dangerous in comparison to the first leg," the former Real Madrid CF favourite told UEFA.com of the 9 March return. "I think they have great players who can play great matches away too. Although we have a small advantage going into the second leg, it's another 90 minutes in which Valencia have the ability to turn things around and score goals here."

Schalke have been in the last eight of Europe's elite competition only twice before but Raúl is keen for the Gelsenkirchen outfit – who won all three home games in the group stage – to make it a hat-trick. "We are full of confidence, and we hope to make it to the quarter-finals," the ex-Spanish international said. "It would be a great achievement for Schalke 04 to be among the best eight teams in Europe."

From landing at Valencia's Manises airport to scoring Schalke's second-half equaliser at the Mestalla, Raúl described his return to Spain for the first leg as a "very special moment". For the 33-year-old, it was his first match back in his home country since leaving Madrid last summer, following 16 years in the Merengues' first team.

"Everything was just very special – to play against Valencia, a Spanish team, and in the Champions League. Of course I would maybe have wanted a different team, not a Spanish one, but that's what happened. And then we can be satisfied with the good result we achieved there – we even managed to score a goal."

Schalke fans will hope for yet more goals from a forward who has made such an impact on the European stage. "I'm happy with what I've achieved," he said. "I've had the chance to play in three Champions League finals and win them, and have also won individual awards, and whenever I hear the Champions League anthem it's something different. Of course I hope I can score more goals, or even just one in the match against Valencia to help the team succeed. It could be that this is my last match in the Champions League – so many things can happen, and only time will tell."

Although confident that his "special relationship" with the UEFA Champions League has already been cemented, this is not a player ready to rest on his laurels. Raúl's time with Madrid and Spain "belongs to the past" and he is savouring the opportunity to learn new things in the Bundesliga with Schalke. "I get up every day with the intention of still improving and learning from my team-mates and coaches, and that makes me feel good. That's also why I chose to have this new experience, to come here to Germany. It was time for a change, and this is a new experience, and it's going very positively from both a family and a sporting perspective."