Schalke entertain visitors from Istanbul.
Galatasaray will be the away team at Schalke 04 in Tuesday’s Champions League last 16 second leg but Fatih Terim’s side can still expect plenty of support from Gelsenkirchen’s sizeable Turkish community.
The joke going around the west German city’s sports bars is that Schalke are the only Champions League team expected to play two away games in the last 16 and many Galatasaray fans will not have to travel far to the Veltins Arena.
Gelsenkirchen has around 18,000 Turks out of 250,000 inhabitants and the former industrial area of the Ruhr valley is home to a Turkish population of around 235,000.
After World War II, Germany encouraged foreign workers to come and settle, with many Turks who flocked to work in the Ruhr’s industry in the 1960s ending up staying, and a second generation was born on German soil.
When Schalke drew Istanbul’s Galatasaray in December for the Champions League’s first knock-out phase, many Turkish immigrants in the Ruhr rushed to snap up tickets with the match long-since sold out.
While many of Schalke’s Turkish community passionately support their local club in the Bundesliga, many still have an allegiance to Turkey and will be cheering on Gala on Tuesday after the first leg in Istanbul finished in a 1-1 draw.
One of the west German city’s favourite sons, Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil, was born and raised in Gelsenkirchen to Turkish parents and now plays for Real Madrid.
For five of the Galatasaray squad, the second leg will be a return to the country of their birth, including Turkey midfielder Hamit Altintop, who spent four seasons with Schalke.
“In the Ruhr, as a Turk, you do not necessarily need to know German,” admitted the 30-year-old Altintop.
“The driving school is in Turkish, the baker, the insurance salesman, the grocer all speak Turkish. Pretty much everyone in the neighbourhood does.”
Altintop left Schalke in 2007, spending four years at Bayern Munich and then a season with Real Madrid before joining Galatasaray last July.
Former Gelsenkirchen mayor Gerd Rehberg, who was Schalke’s president for 13 years before becoming honorary president, could be forgiven for split loyalties on Tuesday.
Having been approached by a club official nine years ago while on holiday in Turkey to help Gala try and buy Altintop from Schalke, Rehberg kept in touch and forged contacts with the Turkish league giants.
As a result, during the club’s centenary celebrations in 2005, he became the first foreigner to be made an honorary Galatasaray member.
“It’s hard to believe, but I’m damn popular in Istanbul,” the 77-year-old told German daily Die Welt.
He is still a prominent figure amongst Gelsenkirchen’s Turkish community, having helped immigrants to find flats and settle in the city, and says football can play a key role in helping foreigners join German society.
“Sport, especially football, can do much to help integration,” he said.
With Holland striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar out injured after tearing knee ligaments, Schalke 04 have problems up front for Tuesday’s Champions League clash against Galatasaray.
Schalke host Galatasaray in the last 16, second leg tie with a slight advantage after the first leg ended in a 1-1 draw in Istanbul three weeks ago.
But with Huntelaar, last season’s top scorer in the German league, out for several weeks having torn the medial ligament in his left knee, Schalke coach Jens Keller has only limited options up front.
“There’s not much use in complaining, we have to accept things as they are,” said Keller, with neither of his reserve strikers, Teemu Pukki of Finland or Nigeria’s Chinedu Obasi, in form.
Pukki took over after Huntelaar’s injury against Borussia Dortmund in Saturday’s 2-1 Bundesliga victory, but failed to make an impact and Peru forward Jefferson Farfan could be moved in from the wing on Tuesday.
“Teemu really worked hard, but he needs more games to find his rhythm again,” said Keller.
Former Hoffenheim forward Obasi has made just three league appearances all season for the Royal Blues, but took part in final training on Monday.
“Obasi is an option,” said Schalke’s director of sport Horst Heldt.
Resurgent Schalke 04 are out to continue their winning streak by beating Galatasaray to book their place in the Champions League’s quarter-finals in Tuesday’s last 16, second leg.
Holding a slight advantage with an away goal from the 1-1 first leg draw in Istanbul three weeks ago, Schalke have won all three games since including Saturday’s 2-1 Bundesliga win over Ruhr Valley rivals Borussia Dortmund.
The victory came at a cost with Holland striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar tearing knee ligaments having scored the winner against Dortmund and is out for the next few weeks.
Despite the loss of last season’s top-scorer in Germany, the derby win has boosted confidence and Schalke are bidding for another win at Gelsenkirchen’s Veltins Arena.
Coach Jens Keller is hoping the home supporters will play their part, even if there are sure to be several thousand Galatasaray fans in the crowd, given the Ruhr’s large Turkish community.
“Beating the German champions doesn’t happen everyday and is encouraging for the tasks ahead,” said Keller, whose side are fourth in the league having dipped to 10th in February.
“It is impressive to hear how much the atmosphere has improved in the stadium – these are happy days for us.”
Captain Benedikt Hoewedes has said that having turned their fortunes around with wins over Wolfsburg, Fortuna Duesseldorf and now Dortmund, Schalke must keep the run going.
“We mustn’t ease up, everyone needs to keep working hard on the pitch and keep playing at the same level, otherwise it can all go wrong again just as quickly,” said the Germany defender who has extended his contract until 2017.
In contrast, Galatasaray remain top of the Turkish league despite Fatih Terim’s team struggling against mid-table teams in Friday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Genclerbirligi and following their goalless draw at Eskisehirspor.
“Pull yourselves together,” Terim is reported to have told his team according to reports in the Turkish media after Friday’s below-par performance.
“Against Schalke, I don’t want to to see you in this state.”
Despite signing Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder in January, both have yet to make their mark at Galatasaray and were quiet in the first leg as Burak Yilmaz’s early goal was ruled out by Schalke’s Jermaine Jones equaliser.
Both clubs have cause for confidence in the second-leg.
Schalke are unbeaten at home in this season’s Champions League and Galatasaray are looking to complete a hat-trick of away victories in the competition.
The Royal Blues have lost just twice in 16 home games in European competition since the start of 2010/11, when they reached the Champions League semi-finals.
Galatasaray are hoping to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2001.
Uchida, Howedes, Matip, Kolasinac
Farfan, Draxler, Bastos
Sabri, Semih, Nounkeu, Riera
Hamit, Melo, Selcuk