- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

LONDON (AP) - Schalke and Sporting Lisbon go into Champions League action on Wednesday battling to finish second behind Chelsea in Group G and secure a place in the knockout stages of the competition.

For third-place Schalke to progress, it must end Maribor’s run of seven unbeaten European home games and hope Chelsea beats Sporting at Stamford Bridge.

Sporting, second on seven points, heads to London with a doubt about the fitness of attacking midfielder Nani, who was substituted in the first half of their 3-1 win against Boavista at the weekend.

A draw should be enough for the Portuguese side to advance due to its superior goal difference over Schalke. A victory would guarantee its passage.

Here are some things to know about Wednesday’s Group G games:



Schalke will be without midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng in Maribor. Boateng has not recovered from an ankle injury and has missed the last two Bundesliga matches.

That did not seem to bother Schalke, which won both (against Mainz and Stuttgart) and scored four goals in each, while conceding only one.

Coach Roberto di Matteo will have defender Felipe Santana and midfielder Sidney Sam available after injuries.

“We can only influence what’s in our power,” said Di Matteo, who has changed his team’s system in the last month.

After a 5-0 defeat at home to Chelsea in its last Champions League game in November, Schalke’s defense has stabilized, while the forwards are finding the target.

Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting have scored hat tricks in consecutive matches

“Everything is going well for us at the minute … as long as we keep on winning, it doesn’t matter who actually scores,” Choupo-Moting said.



Sporting’s young team could be without its talisman Nani at Stamford Bridge.

The Portuguese side has precious little experience at the top European level and the former Manchester United winger has added some much-needed know-how.

Nani limped off in the first half of Sporting’s league game at Boavista last weekend. The club says he has a right thigh injury, but is not saying how long he will take to recover.

Sporting, fourth in the Portuguese league, has not won on the road in Europe since September 2011, when it beat FC Zurich in a Europa League game.



Chelsea has qualified for the knockout stages as group winner, but lost its unbeaten start to the season in all competitions on Saturday with a 2-1 defeat at Newcastle.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is eager to see his team return to winning ways.

“Last Wednesday we won a difficult game against Tottenham and we are confident that if we work hard in training and learn from our mistakes we will win again,” Courtois said.

“This was our first defeat, but we have to keep working hard and things will go better for us again.”



While Slovenian champion Maribor has never beaten a German opponent in five encounters in European competitions, it also remains unbeaten in its last seven European home games.

On Wednesday, it faces Schalke knowing that it cannot reach the last 16 of the Champions League, but would move into the Europa League, by finishing third in Group G, with a victory.

Maribor frustrated Schalke with a 1-1 draw in Germany in its second group match in September and will hope to improve on that result on home turf.

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