Reflections on Schalke’s first defeat of 2015

Schalke’s first defeat of 2015 could not have come at a worse time, arriving just when the club was starting to gel with solid defence and team effort, as well as reasserting their Champions League qualifying position. In facing Eintracht Frankfurt, who albeit are dangerous offensively, as well as it being a road game, this nevertheless was meant to be an opportunity to fly high with confidence into Wednesday’s home match against Real Madrid. With both Leverkusen and FC Augsburg suffering defeat, Schalke were given a chance to clamp down on third place. Now because of Gladbach’s victory, they find themselves back in fourth.

The first half belonged to Schalke but wasted opportunities were in the end hurtful for the Royal Blues, as was the absence of striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, still missing due to suspension. During the first half Christian Fuchs had only Kevin Trapp to beat but ended up tripping on the ground, losing the ball and hurting his shoulder. Tranquillo Barnetta had a great chance just before half. Marco Höger had three shots on net. Nothing came from this.

In the second half, the Eagles took over the pace of the game. The goal could be slightly blamed on a timid young goalkeeper Timon Wellenreuther but Frankfurt had other close opportunities. The 3-5-2 formation of Roberto Di Matteo has to be continued to be applauded. It has given the team backbone. Schalke are most sorely missing firepower upfront as both Choupo-Moting and Kevin-Prince Boateng played poorly. The loss of Huntelaar, Draxler and others leaves the club with a lack of speed and firepower.

For the Champions League game on Wednesday, it has to be asked who will play? Felix Platte, just 19, made his debut Saturday. Roman Neustädter sat on the bench. Wellenreuther at this time still looks like he is the starter. Three goals in four games make Schalke’s prospects look incredibly dire against the best team in Europe. We all know that Schalke will inevitably suffer defeat no matter who plays or what formation is chosen. It is more a matter of how significant the defeat will be. An outing with two or less goals conceded would be welcome compared with Schalke’s pathetic showings against the European heavyweights in recent years.

Three stars:

1. Marco Höger -he was definitely the best player in the first half and has been impressive lately.

2. Tranquillo Barnetta-equally another showing of effort but like Hoger, had misplaced opportunities.

3. Joel Matip-efficient in passing and in not giving much space despite some lapses in the second half.

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