By CALEB SONNELAND
Manchester United faces Schalke 04 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semifinal at the Veltins Arena later today (2:45 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel).
The German side is tagged as the underdog of the tie; however, as Valencia and Inter Milan found out the hard way, Schalke has plenty of weapons that could make United pay.
Former Real Madrid striker Raul has been in fine form this season by netting 12 goals in 31 appearances since joining Schalke last summer. The Spaniard has scored three goals in his last four Champions League games.
Sir Alex Ferguson has announced his relief that Rio Ferdinand could make a return to action tonight after the defender had been sidelined since United's last Champions League match-up against Chelsea earlier this month.
Ferdinand is likely to partner Nemanja Vidic in the center of defense for the Premier League champions-elect, however, the true fitness of the Englishman could well be tested against Schalke.
Striker Wayne Rooney will be hoping to avoid a repeat to his last visit to Schalke's Veltins Arena as it is the same stadium that is notorious for the Cristiano Ronaldo wink that saw Rooney sent off in the 2006 World Cup.
Reports this morning are announcing that Schalke's 23 year old central defender Benedikt HÃ¶wedes has been ruled out for the clash tonight. The German, who has helped Schalke to a 100 percent home record this season, picked up an abdominal injury in last weekend's loss to FC Kaiserslautern.
United is coming into the match riding a narrow 1-0 victory over Everton on Saturday.
Here are some other stories to keep you up-to-date in the soccer world:
MARSEILLE WINS FRENCH LEAGUE CUP, TAIWO FACING SUSPENSION
After scoring the only goal in Marseille's victory in the Coupe de la Ligue over Montpellier last week, Nigerian left back Taye Taiwo could see his season come to an end after a questionable singing session with club supporters.
In the victory celebrations, Taiwo led supporters in an anti-Paris Saint Germain chant aimed at taunting their Ligue 1 rivals. The action is still being investigated by the French League, and they are set to review the incident before taking any disciplinary action, if any.
Taiwo has already apologized for his actions, stating that his emotions got the best of him in a momentary mental lapse of judgement.
If suspended, the news will not please coach Didier Deschamps who lost influential midfield Stephane Mbia for the remainder of the season with a groin problem in that same match over Montpellier.
SNEIJDER "FINE" AT INTER MILAN
Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder has insisted today during a Dutch radio interview that he is happy at Inter Milan, despite being flattered by interest from Manchester United.
Reportedly high on Sir Alex Ferguson's list of summer transfer targets, Sneijder played down exit talk after club president Massimo Moratti declared that United's interest is indeed "real".
Compatriot Rafael van der Vaart also took part in the radio broadcast and argued that London would be a better choice for Sneijder, citing that all the players from the Manchester area end up playing in London in the end.
ARSHAVIN WANTED BACK IN RUSSIA
Unsettled Arsenal attacking midfielder Andrei Arshavin has former employers Zenit St. Petersburg drumming up interest in the Russian international.
Arshavin left Zenit in January 2009 for London for a fee of £15 million, yet has struggled to find his footing this season as the Arsenal season continues to spiral out of control.
Zenit's sporting director was quoted as saying that Arshavin is always welcome back at his old club, after the 29 year old has been linked with a move away from the Emirates this summer.
Despite the fact that he has scored some memorable goals (including his four-goal haul in a Premier League match with Liverpool), Arsenal could be tempted into letting their man go.
Arshavin has scored 22 goals in 70 appearances for the Gunners, including six this season.
What do you think of the Champions League match today? Is Ferdinand 100% fit? Should Taiwo face a suspension? Would Sneijder be tempted by United? Do you agree with van der Vaart's comment about Manchester and London? Is Arshavin's time up in London?
Share your thoughts below