GELSENKIRCHEN: Roberto Di Matteo makes his Champions League debut as Schalke coach on Tuesday with the ex-Chelsea boss urging the Royal Blues to keep visitors Sporting Lisbon bottom of Group G.
The 44-year-old Di Matteo kicked off his fledgling Schalke career with a 2-0 win over Hertha Berlin on Saturday as striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and midfielder Julian Draxler hit the target and helped lift the side to eighth in the Bundesliga.
Having won the 2012 Champions League during his eight-month reign at Chelsea, Di Matteo makes his Royal Blues’ bow in Europe and says they must take the initiative at home to Sporting with Schalke second in the group behind leaders Chelsea.
“I think it doesn’t look too bad (in the group), there is everything still to play for,” said Di Matteo, whose side drew at Chelsea and at home to Maribor in their opening European games.
“When you have a home game, you have to take the initiative.
“The moral after the win is very good, but they (Sporting) are a technically good team, who like to keep the ball.
“We mustn’t let them get into the game.”
Sporting coach Marco Silva has made just one change to his squad after Saturday’s 3-1 Portuguese Cup win at Porto with forward Heldon Ramos coming in for defender Miguel Lopes, who is cup-tied.
Di Matteo will have both defender Joel Matip available, after the Cameroon star missed the Hertha match with suspension, while winger Sidney Sam is back after a leg injury, but squad rotation could still be a factor.
“When you have two games per week, you need to use the complete squad and share around the workload,” said Di Matteo.
Huntelaar has said Schalke will score goals against Sporting, who have just a point from their two games, and that confidence is flowing back through the squad after beating Hertha.
“We’ll score goals, we have got some of our self-confidence back after the Hertha victory and we need to continue that,” said the Netherlands star.
“The days are easier when you win than when you lose, that’s obvious.
“There are things we need to improve from, but it was a good start and a good performance.
“It’s important that we’re solid as a team.”