FC Schalke 04 can make history by recovering a 2-0 deficit at Real Madrid CF on Tuesday – and coach Roberto Di Matteo has form when it comes to beating the odds.
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FC Schalke 04 would make UEFA Champions League history by overturning a 2-0 deficit at Real Madrid CF on Tuesday – but coach Roberto Di Matteo knows about upsetting the odds in this competition.
He, of course, led Chelsea FC to a somewhat surprise triumph in 2012 when the final, like this year's, was in Germany. While a raucous atmosphere in Gelsenkirchen could not inspire Schalke to a first-leg win against the holders, the scoreline was a vast improvement on their 6-1 loss 12 months ago, and Di Matteo discussed the current round of 16 and his own management philosophy with UEFA.com.
UEFA.com: Nobody can deny that UEFA Champions League nights are very special in Gelsenkirchen. How much does top-level European football mean to this town?
Di Matteo: The fans are very proud that the team regularly participate in the Champions League. It is the club's goal to qualify for this competition every season. We have to make it into the top four in the league. The fans really enjoy these European nights because they are so different to regular Bundesliga matches. That's when teams like Chelsea or Real Madrid come to Gelsenkirchen.
UEFA.com: There was no repeat of last season's 6-1 home defeat, but how can you challenge Real Madrid in Spain?
Di Matteo: To be able to compete against a team like that, our team need to have a perfect day and hope that Real Madrid are not in top form. Then we could get a positive result. We have a good side. The players are all very willing and ready to develop further and improve day in, day out. That is very important, that they push themselves to their limits. We hope we can achieve a positive result.
Di Matteo: I don't know how much it helps my team, but for me personally that experience has helped me prepare the team. I played in the competition, then gained experience as a coach. There is a difference between playing in the Champions League and in the domestic league, and your opponents normally play a different kind of football from the Bundesliga. The whole atmosphere is totally different as well.
UEFA.com: Which school of football has influenced you most as a coach?
Di Matteo: Various coaches have had an influence on me. Arrigo Sacchi had a lot of influence on my philosophy, but also Ruud Gullit – and I had a coach in Switzerland who was very good tactically. You can learn from all your coaches.
UEFA.com: How much are you influenced by data and statistics?
Di Matteo: I look at them but don't let myself be too influenced by statistics – they are more a confirmation of thoughts or of what you are thinking. I observe the players and the team every day, and I make decisions for the team. I need statistics, but not too much.