Claude Paris/Associated Press
This is the second consecutive season that Chelsea and Schalke have been paired together at the group stage. The German club were beaten 3-0 home and away last year and finished second in the group before exiting the competition in the next round, beaten 9-2 on aggregate by eventual winners Real Madrid.
This season will be their sixth season in the Champions League. Their only success so far in Europe came in 1997 when they defeated Inter Milan to win the UEFA Cup, the predecessor to the Europa League.
Schalke have not had the best start to the 2014-15 season, losing 2-1 to Hannover 96. They have been particularly affected by injuries and the late return of some World Cup participants, but should be back to full strength by the time their first Champions League fixture rolls around in September.
Schalke’s strengths lie in their possession play and their ability to stifle their opponents. They have a relatively young squad, although veteran striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar bucks that trend at 31 years of age. Julian Draxler was a rumoured transfer target for Chelsea last season and had this to say about facing the Blues again, per the official Schalke website:
The group is really interesting. We undersold ourselves twice against Chelsea last season. We want to do better this time and show what we’re capable of. Sporting Lisbon have been one of Portugal’s top clubs for years, so we know what awaits us with them. Maribor are difficult to judge I feel. But they beat Celtic in the play-offs and are in the group phase for a reason. Our goal, as in recent years, is to reach the knockouts.