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Nic Ladds 27th Nov 2008 - 10:27

Schalke set to test shaky City defence and Hughes' resilience

Mark Hughes knows that a point will do for Manchester City as they bid to ease some of the pressure on under fire boss Mark Hughes by qualifying for the knock out stages of the UEFA Cup.

After their big money take over City have had an indifferent season. Currently sitting eleventh in the Premier League they are only three points above the relegation zone and speculation over Mark Hughes's future means this match takes on all the more significance.

They face no easy task as Schalke currently sit top of the UEFA Cup group and will really test City's shaky rear guard. Schalke have been chalked up at 21/20 favourites with City at 13/5 and the draw 23/10.

There is a feeling that Schalke will be focusing more on their upcoming Bundesliga clash with Stuttgart at the weekend as they need to make up points in the league and as they already sit top of the group, the UEFA Cup may take a back seat.

City will be taking this match seriously with Hughes knowing any loss will not help his case to stay in the manager's hot seat, however one eye for them will also be on their Premier League clash with bitter rivals Manchester United on Sunday.

The absence of Brazilian striker Robinho will not be too much of a blow to City as they have a number of back up players desperate to impress. Jo, Ched Evans and Daniel Sturridge will all be eager for the chance and the most likely starter Jo, can be backed at 9/1 to score first.

His striker partner Benjani is available at 15/2 but in-form midfielder Stephen Ireland makes most appeal at 10/1 to be the first to hit the back of the net.

Ireland has been in blistering form in the Premier League and with his surging runs into the box is a constant menace as his goal scoring record of seven from 17 in the league shows.

Although Schalke, like City maybe slightly distracted by up coming league fixtures they are certainly not to be taken lightly. Kevin Kuranyi and Jefferson Farfan are a lethal combination up front and are 11/2 and 13/2 respectively to score first.

The pair have a dozen goals between them in the league and will carry a constant threat to a suspect City defence.

At a much bigger price the value could lie with Orlando Engelaar. The huge Dutch midfielder started life as a striker and loves to shoot from range. He recently scored his first for Schalke and he can reward anytime scorer punters at 8/1 or a massive 20/1 to net first.

City will hope to get something out of this game but they are facing strong opposition and are not nearly as good away from home as they are at Eastlands. Schalke's pacy attack may just prove too much for City's leaky defence, an area which Mark Hughes, should he still be there in January, will look to improve.

Orland Engelaar to score anytime - 8/1


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