Huntelaar targets progress for the fans
Klaas Jan Huntelaar is determined to lift the spirits of Schalke fans by helping the team secure their place in the UEFA Europa League last 32 tomorrow night. The Gelsenkirchen giants know a win over Steaua Bucharest at the Veltins Arena will be enough to take them through to the knockout stage from Group J, and the three points would be a real boost following their defeat to bitter Ruhr rivals Borussia Dortmund at the weekend.
Huntelaar told www.schalke04.de: "We want to progress to the next round in front of our fans, that would be great, especially since it would mean we could travel for the final group game against Maccabi Haifa knowing we were through.
"A victory against Bucharest would also give us strength and confidence for the challenges ahead. We are all ready and primed for the upcoming tasks. For me personally, I can say that I feel very comfortable and have no problems. Even my nose is fine."
Huntelaar has worn a protective mask after suffering a broken nose earlier this season, and he is set to wear it once more against the Romanians in what would be his 50th appearance in UEFA club competition. Defender Benedikt Howedes was back in training this week following a knee injury but may not be risked yet by Schalke coach Huub Stevens.
Both sides have changed coaches since their first meeting on 15 September in Cluj, with Ralf Rangnick having left Schalke within a week of that match and Roni Levy departing Steaua at the end of September, to be replaced by former Steaua player Ilie Stan. Asked if he expected a very different tactical contest from that 0-0 draw in view of the changes, Huntelaar added: "I cannot judge that but one thing is certain - Steaua are a good team. We also saw that in the first game. Huub Stevens has prepared us well to face this opponent and our goal is clearly a win at home."
Brazilian midfielder Tatu is unavailable for Steaua after suffering fitness problems following a trip to Portugal for family reasons. Midfielders Cristian Tanase and Andrei Prepelita travelled with the squad to Germany after recovering from injuries, but forward Florin Costea is suspended. Schalke lead Group J with eight points, and Steaua are third, three points behind.
The Bucharest club are sixth in their domestic league, having beaten Brasov 1-0 at the weekend. Schalke are fifth - within the Europa League qualification places - but their defeat to Dortmund ended a seven-match unbeaten run in all competitions. Steaua have won just one of their 13 matches against German opposition in European competition, and that came in 1957 against Borussia Dortmund. They have failed to score in any of their last four encounters with Bundesliga sides.