Schalke midfielder Ivan Rakitic hopes he can bring his international experiences to bear in tomorrow's UEFA Champions League Group B match with Hapoel Tel Aviv.
Rakitic, who is back in action after losing two teeth and sustaining a concussion following an on-field kick to the face, played against the Israeli national side for Croatia. Several of Hapoel's players are fixtures in the Israel squad and Rakitic believes he saw enough of them during Croatia's 2-1 UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying victory to help Schalke gain the edge in Gelsenkirchen.
"We've watched Hapoel on video and we've talked about them at length but also know some of their players quite well because Croatia played in Israel in a European qualifier recently," he told Schalke's official website. "A lot of the Hapoel players are in the national team and so I was able to identify a few strengths and weaknesses."
After following an opening defeat to group leaders Lyon with a 2-0 home victory over Benfica, Rakitic is content with the Bundesliga side's position after two matches and is looking to solidify it.
"We're on target in the Champions League and in a good position to qualify for the knockout stages. With the backing of the fans we want to carry on where we left off against Benfica and secure our next win in the group phase. In my view that was our best performance of the season so far."
Hapoel approach the match on the back of a 1-0 derby win against Maccabi Tel Aviv and highly-rated striker Itay Shechter wants to use that as a springboard to the club's first Champions League points. Hapoel have lost to Lyon 3-1 and Benfica 2-0 thus far and Shechter is keen not to add a third defeat of the campaign.
"Playing well won't be enough," he said. "The time has come to take at least one point, if not three, in this competition. Schalke are an elite club with a big budget so a draw or a win would be good for us.
"The derby was the most important game for the club, a match that the fans waited for the entire season. I'm happy that we brought them pride and we maintained our dominance of the city. We are going to a match that is like the icing on the cake."
Meanwhile, Shechter has his eye on securing a souvenir from the match as well as a first point of the campaign. "It will be a great honor to see Raul," said Shechter. "I'll try to switch shirts with him after the match, even at half-time if I have to!"