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Schalke prepare repeat dose for AEK Larnaca

FC Schalke 04 boss Huub Stevens says there is more to come from his side as, a fortnight on from winning 5-0 at AEK Larnaca FC, the Group J leaders prepare to host the Cypriot outfit.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar celebrates after scoring on Saturday
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar celebrates after scoring on Saturday ©Getty Images

A win away from a place in the UEFA Europa League knockout stages, FC Schalke 04 are flying high atop Group J and coach Huub Stevens sent out an ominous message ahead of Thursday's meeting with AEK Larnaca FC: his team can improve.

The Cypriot club travel to Gelsenkirchen smarting from the 5-0 defeat the Königsblauen inflicted upon them two weeks ago. They may do well to avoid a similar scoreline with Schalke in red-hot form, winning their last four in all competitions.

After a sluggish opening day draw at FC Steaua Bucureşti, the German club upped their game. They recorded a 3-1 victory over Maccabi Haifa FC before the win in Nicosia, where Klaas-Jan Huntelaar struck twice to get his first goals of the competition. Stevens believes there is a lot more to come from the Dutch striker, the 12-goal top scorer in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying.

"Huntelaar is playing well at the moment but he can still improve and get better," said the 57-year-old. "Our young defence is doing fine, too, but we also have someone like Christoph Metzelder and he is always an option to come in. We have the same strength in depth with the goalkeepers. I don't know who our starting keeper will be. All I know is that he will wear gloves."

Despite claiming a record European away win on matchday three and continuing their form by beating TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 3-1 on Saturday, Stevens is not resting on his laurels. "Against Larnaca the performance was maybe not as good as the result suggests. We didn't play well during the first half-hour. Then out of the nothing we scored and then got two more before the break. Tomorrow we have to concentrate from the kick-off."

Joel Matip scored in Cyprus, and revealed how the team's style of play has helped them concede just once in three group games. "We are defending with our entire team," said the Cameroon midfielder. "Defence begins in attack. The strikers are the first defenders and they are helping us a lot at the moment. We all work together as a team, but we know we can still improve. We can play better."