5 things to know about Group E in Champions League
It’s between Basel and Schalke for the final spot in the last 16
of the Champions League from Group E. The teams meet on Wednesday
with third-placed Schalke having to win to prevent Basel from
joining Chelsea in qualifying from the group.
Top place is still up for grabs, although Chelsea can seal that
by beating Steaua Bucharest at Stamford Bridge. Here are five
things to know about the Group E matches:
NEW YEAR SALES: Basel has more at stake in Schalke than just
advancing to the Champions League knockout rounds for the second
time in three seasons. If the Swiss champions lose on Wednesday,
widely admired young players Mohamed Salah and Fabian Schaer are
likely to be prime targets for German and English clubs in the
January transfer window.
Basel needs only a draw to advance and increase its chances of
retaining players for a Champions League campaign and push for a
fifth consecutive national title. Two years ago, Basel beat
Manchester United in the last group match to advance instead of the
English giant. By the time Basel played Bayern Munich in the last
16 in February, a deal was already agreed to sell winger Xherdan
Shaqiri to the German side. Still, Shaqiri stayed for the rest of
the season and, before leaving for the Bundesliga, Salah was
recruited from Egypt to replace him. Salah’s key goals in
home-and-away wins against Chelsea have put him on many clubs’ wish
SCHALKE UNCERTAINTY: Jens Keller’s future is on the line after
just a year as Schalke coach. Keller appears to have been under
pressure since taking charge, and gained some breathing space only
by securing Champions League qualification. Should Schalke be
knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday, Keller could be
gone immediately or during the winter break.
Keller’s reign has been marked by inconsistency, and the
relatively expensively assembled side has not been able to put
together a string of good performances. Schalke is sixth in the
Bundesliga, already 17 points behind leader Bayern Munich. Werder
Bremen’s former longtime coach, Thomas Schaaf, has been touted as
Keller’s potential successor.
LEAKY CHELSEA: Chelsea is leaking goals domestically. The Blues
have conceded 17 in the English Premier League, two more than in
the whole of Jose Mourinho’s first season in charge when the team
won the 2004-05 title. Chelsea has conceded three goals in each of
its last two league games: A 4-3 win over Sunderland was followed
up a 3-2 loss at Stoke on Saturday.
”We’ve kept a lot of clean sheets this season, but in the last
two games we’ve let too many goals in,” defender Gary Cahill said.
”That’s unlike us and it’s down to individual mistakes. We talked
about it after Sunderland and there were unfortunate incidents at
the set-pieces. We’ve had a look at it and they were not major,
major mistakes. Maybe it’s just a bit of bad luck but obviously,
away from home, we’ve got to keep it tight.”
FORWARD FLOPS: Chelsea’s problems are not only at the back, as
the strikers are also misfiring. Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and
Samuel Eto’o did not manage a shot on target at Stoke, and they
have scored only four goals between them in the league and five in
the Champions League. ”The strikers try their best, so I don’t
know what to do,” Mourinho said.
STEAUA’S SLIDE: It’s over for Steaua Bucharest in Europe this
season, with no way of climbing off bottom place to qualify for the