Week 26: Schalke’s CL aspirations take a setback

Bayer 04 Leverkusen 1-0 FC Schalke 04

The dark cloud is looming for Schalke fans. The mountains are forming that now seem too large to climb for there to be any Ruhr Valley representation in the Champions League next year. Schalke’s home defeat against Leverkusen puts Schalke well back of the top four (six points and counting).

Most objective Bundesliga fans would now deem it to be almost certain that Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg, Leverkusen and Gladbach will be the Champions League representatives next year, despite eight games still remaining. It is wise however to emphasize the word almost. Schalke have a favourable schedule facing the likes of Freiburg, Stuttgart, Koln, Paderborn and HSV, along with players like Jefferson Farfan, Sead Kolasinac, Julian Draxler and Ralf Fahrmann returning. Regardless of who they play, they have to find a way to win. Against Leverkusen, the opportunities were there but the inability to capitalize on these continued in this overall disappointing Ruckrunde.

For this game, Roberto Di Matteo’s selections cannot be challenged to a great extent. Benedikt Höwedes had to sit out due to him picking up his fifth yellow card against Hertha Berlin last week. In his place was Kaan Ayhan, who while did not fully compensate for Höwedes’ absence, still put in an admirable effort, leading the team in touches (84) and passes (49). As well, with Eric Maxim Choupo-Mating still nursing a thigh injury, Leroy Sane got a chance to start up front with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Sane’s effort this time was not noteworthy but Di Matteo, still showing his old habits in not fully embracing the youth of this side, took him off for Kevin Prince-Boateng after only forty-two minutes. That did little to benefit the club

Di Matteo still was not utilizing all he had on the bench as  Kolasinac did not appear and Max Meyer was substituted at the seventy-sixth minute. It was nice to see Jefferson Farfan reappear, as Meyer’s replacement and we will see if he can return to his attacking style of play he had back in 12/13 and 13/14.

As for Timon Wellenreuther, this has to be considered one of his finer outings. When Karim Bellarabi scored on a nice setup from Simon Rolfes, it was an almost unstoppable strike, perhaps only exemplifying Wellenreuther’s lack of height. Throughout the rest of the game he made several solid shots and did not make any amateurish mistakes this time.

The last important thought is that this game also displayed Schalke’s lack of potent offence. They were definitely missing EMCM as well as Huntelaar missing a few golden opportunities. This inability to strike when needed has been on show all season and some Royal Blue fans must be missing the potent firepower of Raul and a better Huntelaar from a few seasons ago. The squad is only tied for seventh in goals scored this year.

Three stars:

1. Kaan Ayan- He did a tremendous job, filling n for Höwedes.

2. Timon Wellenreuther.

3. Max Meyer. It was not his greatest game but he often was the driving force behind this limited offence.

Note: Schalke will be without Roman Neustädter for their next game in two weeks against Augsburg, as he picked up another yellow card.

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