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Oczipka is hopeful for UCL return

GELSENKIRCHEN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 19: Bastian Oczipka looks on during a FC Schalke 04 press conference at Veltins Arena on February 19, 2019 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images)
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The Schalke footballer hasn’t played in the UEFA Champions League in 2541 days, but he hopes that can change today.

The last time Bastian Oczipka played in the UEFA Champions League was in the 2011-2012 season.

The footballer was playing for Bayer Leverkusen at the time, and he played as a substitute in the three Group Stage matches.

But now, 2541 days later, he can return to Europe’s premier competition, now defending the colors of German Bundesliga team Schalke.

The Germans will host English Premier League side Manchester City at the Veltins Arena, as part of the Champions League Round of 16 series.

“I couldn’t bank on being 100% fit again during the group stages,” Oczipka explained to the team’s official website.

“If I had come back in December, then I would have just been taking up a Champions league squad place.”

“Our opponents have a brutal attack,” he understands.

“We must defend well as a team to stop Manchester City from scoring.”

“They’re not in the Quarterfinals yet. We’ve got both matches to play first,” he continued.

“Of course, we’re the underdogs, but we’re working with that status. We’ll have that bit of extra spark playing at home with our fans behind us.”

“We worked hard as a team last year to earn the right to compete in these sorts of games,” he commented.

“I’m like that in every game though. That comes with the whole playing experience, and you need that as a footballer. I’m turning my nerves into enjoyment.”

The first leg of the Round of 16 series is tonight, while the second leg will be played on March 12th.