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The Toe Poke

Figo warns Inter of Schalke threat

Former Inter Milan star Luis Figo is delighted that the Nerazzurri have avoided the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid - but is wary of the prospect of facing Schalke.

Despite their poor domestic form, Figo believes Schalke are capable of troubling the reigning European champions and is mindful that the standard of Italian football has dipped.

"Overall I am happy with Inter's draw but we need to remember that Schalke are a dangerous team and Inter need to be careful," said Figo, the 2000 World Player of the Year.

"They are struggling at the moment domestically but they pose a definite threat - they wouldn't be in the quarter-finals of the Champions League if they didn't."

Figo also singled out his former Real Madrid teammate Raul as Schalke's danger man.

"I am happy that Raul is doing well in the Champions League and Bundesliga with Schalke, but I hope that he is not celebrating when they play Inter.

"But Inter's defence will have to be careful of him," Figo added. "Obviously we want to win this year's Champions League but we know that to retain this title is the hardest thing in football. No one has broken that record but there is no reason why Inter can't be the first.

"But the level of the Italian teams has been lower than it has been and they need to raise their level to compete with Spain and England. Inter are flying the flag for Italy for now."

Inter captain Javier Zanetti has vowed not to underestimate the German side.

''We must respect Schalke because it will be a difficult game just like the rest,'' Zanetti told the club's official website. ''You don't arrive to the Champions League quarter-finals just like that.''

Meanwhile, Schalke's director of sport Horst Heldt admitted he was just delighted to have avoided Barcelona.

''The worst moment is when Barcelona's name came out and we were still in the draw,'' Heldt told Schalke's official website. ''I have played against Barcelona twice with Stuttgart and I don't have very fond memories of them.

''Inter is a very, very strong opponent. You could see that in the last round when they beat Bayern Munich. But we are looking forward to the challenge. The good thing is we start off at 0-0 and I am really looking forward to the two games.''


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