Our next opponents: Schalke 04

Ahead of the next international break, and the associated almost two weeks without a Bundesliga fixture, the Werkself are away to FC Schalke 04 on Friday (29 September, 20.30 CET). We take a closer look at the team lying seventh in the table with the Germany international Leon Goretzka a key player in their line-up:


The good mood amongst the Royal Blues after a  successful start to the season has recently wilted somewhat. The reason for that are the two defeats against Bayern Munich (0-3) and away to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (0-2). The team coached by Dominico Tedesco have only picked up three points out of the last three games (2-1 against Werder Bremen), which represents a poor return given the high expectations at Schalke. However, three wins in the first four league matches puts the team in seventh place as it stands. If the Royal Blues failed to get a result against the Werkself then they may lose contact with the leading group – otherwise fifth place is a possibility.


In his second year as general manager, Christian Heidel has continued to make huge changes to the FC Schalke squad: 15 players were sold, loaned out or released in the last transfer window – including the long-standing captain Benedikt Höwedes. The club spent around 40 million euros on new signings. Of those, only the 21-year-old Frenchman Amine Harit Has made an impression with three assists in the total of seven league goals for Schalke. Permanent signing Nabil Bentaleb (22) and Yevhen Konoplyanka (27) have not proved to be durable partners in attack for key player Leon Goretzka. However, Bentaleb is currently the most successful goalscorer for the Royal Blues with two goals so far. In contrast, the Spaniard Coke is not enjoying much luck: Schalke announced on Tuesday that the 30-year-old is sidelined again, this time with a knee injury that threatens to keep him out for several weeks.


The aim for coach Domenico Tedesco, who arrived in the summer, is to improve on last season's tenth-place finish and return Schalke to the European stage – and the club have backed that up with the necessary funds. The minimum target is a Europa League finish but ideally it would be qualification for the Champions League. That is still the hope amongst the Royal Blues despite all the changes in the squad. On paper, the team from Gelsenkirchen are certainly capable of it. The question is how long will it take for the 32-year-old coach to mould his team. Schalke have shown signs of that quality in the first six matches as was shown in the opening game this season in the 2-0 victory over Bundesliga runners-up RB Leipzig.


At the same time, the first six Bundesliga fixtures clearly showed the same deficits in terms of stability and confidence as under the former coach Markus Weinzierl. The team had weak phases in the matches at Werder Bremen and against newcomers VfB Stuttgart, which would probably have been ruthlessly exploited by stronger opponents. The desire to get onto the front foot again is clearly evident under Tedesco – but that has proved costly in defence with a goals conceded to date.


The recent defeat against Hoffenheim tends to cloud the good start although Schalke have been unlucky in terms of finishing at times. That has been seen as encouraging. In addition, the atmosphere in Gelsenkirchen is fairly relaxed in spite of the last two setbacks. According to the motto: Change requires patience. The Schalke club management know there is enough quality in the squad to achieve a European finish. That means they also need to be able to get results in games against direct rivals for a European spot – as in Friday's game against the Werkself.

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