New Delhi: Out of all the teams that have made the cut for the last eight in the UEFA Champions League, it is Schalke 04 who are the least experienced.
But this year all that could be put to rest as they have the exact mix of youthful exuberance and experienced campaigners to make all the right noises in Europe's elite competition.
After seeing off the group stage and qualifying for the last 16 by leading the group, the German side are involved in a four-prong dogfight in Group B. With each club stuttering at some stage, it was some convincing wins over Hapoel tel Aviv and a resounding 3-0 win over seasoned Champions League qualifiers Lyon that set them up for a first place finish.
What was even more convincing was the fact that it was the sheer unity of the team after wholesale changes in the summer and despite the ever-increasing pressure on coach Felix Magath, Schalke played the most cohesive game in their group and backed it up with some convincing results.
They faced a resilient Valencia side in the last 16 of the competition and after an eventful 1-1 draw at the Mestalla stadium, the Germans knew the importance of their home game.
And come the second leg, a different Schalke rose up to the occasion. Keeper Manuel Neuer was as solid as ever, Raul provided the much-needed experience in and around the box, and Jefferson Farfan proved to be the catalyst as he single-handedly tore Los Che apart with his speed and skill, scoring a brace, the Peruvian made sure that there were no last-minute hiccups.
Schalke have a mountain to climb when they face Italian giants and defending champions Inter Milan, who are as dogged as ever to keep a firm grip on the title and th Germans will need everything they have to dream of a semi-final with either Manchester United or Chelsea.