UCL: Underestimate Schalke At Your Own Peril

"We have to get it out of our heads that we are playing a big team like United and believe that we can reach the final, even though we won't be favourites." - Raul Gonzales on Schalke's progress to 2010/11 UEFA Champions League Semi-Final
After scoring the first goal and creating the second to help Schalke 04 seal a 2-1 second-leg win against holders Inter Milan, Raul Gonzalez said it was "hugely satisfying" to be part of a side now through to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the first time.

Though a three-time winner himself, Raul had not reached the last four at this level in eight years. Like his former club Real Madrid, though, the Spanish striker – who left the Liga giants last summer – is now back at the business and even has the chance or probability to meet his former club in the final.

"The most important thing is that we've reached the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time. We have won twice against the reigning European club champions; we were the better side in both games and now we must face a really complicated semi-final against Manchester United. We have to get it out of our heads that we are playing a big team like United and believe that we can reach the final, even though we won't be favourites," said Raul.

With Schalke 5-2 up from the first leg in Milan, the tie was effectively over as soon as Raul latched on to Jose Manuel Jurado's pass on the stroke of half-time, rounded Júlio César and scored his 71st goal in Europe's premier club competition. Following Thiago Motta's equaliser, he then helped his side complete a 7-3 aggregate win with a clever through ball to Benedikt Höwedes, nine minutes from time.

"We have overachieved, got further than anyone expected and we have played two great matches against Inter, matches which nobody expected us to dominate. We won't be favourites in the next round either but we will throw ourselves into these matches and try to make something happen," said Howedes who scored the second goal for Schalke with a thnderbolt strike.

With Raul in his current form, United are unlikely to take Schalke lightly. Sir Alex Ferguson should have realised that by now and he was there witnessing Raul's predatory instincts that helped Schalke to set up a semi-final encounter with the Red Devils. Furthermore, United don't have a good record against German opponents in Europe. Their victory over Bayern Munich in 1999 Champions League final was the sole success, apart from that they have lost all three encounters.

Manchester United's Champions League Knock-Out Woes Against German Opponents:

Borussia Dortmund, Semi-Final, 23 April 1997
United's first European Cup semi-final since 1969 saw them lose 1-0 away with every confidence of progressing, but Lars Ricken's eighth-minute goal at Old Trafford and a host of misses, including spectacular overhead kicks by Eric Cantona, secured a 1-0 win for the Germans.

Bayer Leverkusen, Semi-Final, 1 May 2002
United went into the tie having been rocked by David Beckham's broken metatarsal. The upcoming Michael Ballack scored in the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford. Roy Keane put United ahead in the return only for Oliver Neuville to equalise and Diego Forlán to spurn chances as United went out.

Bayern Munich, Quarter-Final, 7 April 2010
Ten-man Manchester United crashed out on away goals thanks to a wonder strike by Arjen Robben at Old Trafford. From a seemingly impregnable position, three goals on the night and two in front on aggregate, United's world collapsed in a six-minute spell either side of the interval.

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