The goal for Schalke for the longest time has been to catch up to Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich while finally challenging for trophies and titles. They’ve spent a lot of money over the years, and they’ve gotten good results because of it with the Champions League being the expectation in Gelsenkirchen. But this season, wherever they finish, Die Konigsblauen will be far behind their Ruhr rivals and their Bavarian giants once again.
After losing to Hertha Berlin this past Friday, in a game where they were clearly second best, their only route back to Europe’s premier competition will likely come via fourth place. Since this is the case, their rigorous upcoming fixture list, which includes Bayern, Gladbach, Dortmund, Leverkusen and an away contest with Ingolstadt will be season and future defining. This is because of the Champions League places and the job of Andre Breitenreiter along with the future of the players at stake.
Competing For Next Season’s Champions League
For a club like Schalke that most Bundesliga fans consider to be one of the league’s biggest, finishing in the top 4 and qualifying for the Champions League is a must. After not qualifying for the competition last season, it was imperative for the club’s reputation that they get back to Europe’s biggest competition. The money that Schalke spent this summer on Johannes Geis, Franco Di Santo, and Junior Caiçara showed everyone what Die Konigsblauen’s intentions were this season.
And now they find themselves right in the mix with two teams that they will face in the coming weeks. One of them is Borussia Mönchengladbach, whom Schalke will host on Matchday 27. This game will be vital for the race for 4th and even 3rd, with Andre Schubert’s men right ahead of Schalke in the table at this point. Whichever team wins will have a much better chance than the other at qualifying for the Champions League, and with the game being a home tie for Schalke, they will be favored.
If The Royal Blues can beat Gladbach, they will certainly have the momentum in the Champions League push. And with how close the table is from 4th to 8th, if Schalke don’t get a result in that game, they could fall very far behind Gladbach and Hertha at fourth and third respectively. They are already a point behind Die Fohlen, and falling behind by 4 points, with Bayern and Dortmund looming would give Schalke a very small chance at the Champions League depending on the results. Winning against Gladbach is a must if Schalke plan to be in the mix, especially with Die Fohlen facing Hertha Berlin in their next game. If the results go their way, Schalke could be in a good position before they fact Leverkusen.
But besides Gladbach, Bayer Leverkusen are also pushing for the Champions League spots, and they have a game coming up against Schalke as well. Just like the Gladbach game, it will be season defining with all of the Champions League implications. Just like Schalke, Leverkusen are a club that is dependent on Champions League football. This game will be even more season defining than the Gladbach game, because while Leverkusen are farther off than Andre Schubert’s men at the moment, this game will come right after the Bayern and Dortmund clashes.
If Schalke get 1 or 0 points from those two games, they will need to beat Leverkusen to hold onto 4th or get back in the hunt for the Champions League. If The Royal Blues lose this game, they might miss out on the Champions League depending on how the table looks. And for a club that relies on being Champions League regulars for revenue, that would be a massive failure, and it shows just how much will be on the line when Schalke host Leverkusen. For a club of Schalke’s size, with their goal being to catch up to their rivals Dortmund and Bayern, that game against Leverkusen, along with the Gladbach game will certainly define their season. If the boys from Gelsenkirchen can win both of those games, their goal of making the Champions League will be very possible.
Seeing How They Fare Against The top Two
After the crucial game against Gladbach, Schalke will face off against Bayern in the Allianz Arena, and they will host Dortmund the following matchday. It will be very tough for Die Kongisblauen to get a result of course, but after Mainz shocked Bayern two games ago, the Bavarians don’t look as invincible as they once did at home. If Schalke can put some pressure on the hampered defense of Bayern, they could give Bayern a true test. After losing to the Bavarians 3-1 in a tightly contested game earlier in the season, if Schalke by a similar scoreline in Munich, that would be seen as a very positive result for Andre Breitenreiter men.
But if The Royal Blues don’t perform at their best, and lose by four or five goals, people will start to question if the former Paderborn manager is the man for the job. Breitenreiter has to prove that he has installed a winning mentality into the team by trying to compete with Bayern and win the game in Munich. If they show that they don’t have the correct mentality, Schalke will prove to be no better than they were last season by sitting back and letting Bayern pile on the pressure until they score. Mainz laid out the blueprint for teams to beat Bayern, now let’s see if Schalke are good enough to do it.
After the trip to Bavaria, Schalke have a home clash against their bitter rivals in Dortmund. After losing 3-2 in Dortmund, Schalke will certainly hope to get a result against their high-flying rivals. With the Ruhr derby having so much on the line for the hosts, The Royal Blues will need to put in a great performance to get three points, and this game might be more important for the club’s future than any other. If Dortmund can come to Schalke and beat them in convincing fashion, it will show the board that they aren’t even close to where they want to be. For Breitenreiter, he needs to show the fans and the board that he can compete with Dortmund, because that might be just as important as Champions League football. A win in this game for the former Paderborn boss would be huge for qualifying for Europe’s grand competition, and it would help his job security tremendously.
Besides Breitenreiter’s future being at stake in the coming games, the future for the players is at stake as well. If the Blues underperform against Bayern and Dortmund, Schalke will certainly address the team needs this summer. That could spell the doom for some of Schalke’s underperforming players, and others could be regulated to a bench role next season depending on who comes in. Every player not named Sane, Meyer, Matip or Goretzka needs to show Breitenreiter and the board that they should be a part of Schalke’s future plans. If you can’t do it against the team that The Royal Blues want to catch, than the club will want to find someone different. With all that’s on the line for the players, they will certainly perform at the highest level in the coming games. If Schalke get manhandled with their players as determined as ever, there could be a new manager and a lot of new players next season in Gelsenkirchen.
Since Schalke are a club that is relying on Champions League consistency more than ever, whenever they face off against their rivals at the top of the table it’s a big deal. But with the rigorous upcoming fixture list with Bayern, Dortmund, Gladbach and Leverkusen along with Ingolstadt coming up for The Royal Blues their season is hanging in the balance. With the enormous amount of importance surrounding these games, the Champions League for next season, along with the futures of many Schalke players and Andre Breitenreiter on the line. If The Blues can get some positive results in the coming weeks, they might be able to challenge Hertha for third place as well as being in the mix for fourth. But if the results go the other way, things could get very messy in Gelsenkirchen, with the club having to settle for the Europa League again. If that is the case, holding onto the likes of Meyer, Sane, Goretzka and other stars like Ralf Fährmann and Benedikt Höwedes might become an even tougher task for Schalke.
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