A look at Barca’s possible UCL opponents

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Lionel Messi issued a clarion call at the very beginning of the season where the Champions League was concerned.

That was the priority for Barcelona. No messing about, a stated aim to take home the trophy once again.

Drawn in the ‘group of death,’ the Blaugrana sailed through it, but now the real business begins.

Barcelona have six possible opponents they could draw in the Round of 16… Continue reading

Schalke 04: A club currently in disarray

German Bundesliga side Schalke 04 recently confirmed two players had been released from the club, and one further name suspended following the Blues’ weekend defeat to Koln. Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sidney Sam were the duo said to have been “indefinitely suspended”, while Marco Hoger finds himself out of action potentially for the remainder of the season too. The news came in the wake of another poor performance in the league, and leaves Schalke’s future in tatters.

The recent result meant the Germans slipped down the table into 6th, just two points above Borussia Dortmund, of whom were 14 points behind at the start of February. It’s been a woeful run of form suffered by Roberto Di Matteo’s men, when for so long they looked on course for a Champions League spot in the table. They have won just two league games in their last 12 played, and haven’t won away from home all year.

No Champions League football, and potentially no Europa League football will be so damaging to the club, and could well cost the job of manager Di Matteo. Schalke have some talented players in the team that could well broker a move away to greener pastures, as it’s clear the German side aren’t in a good place of late. Julian Draxler is highly-rated around Europe, but it’s hard to see him staying past the summer now.

He was public in his criticism for the side’s performance too, saying: “We played really badly. I don’t know what was wrong with us. You’re not going to win games in the Bundesliga like that. I’m pretty sure it was one of our worst performances in recent years. We’re also aware of the anger of our fans. They have reason to be unhappy and vent their anger. Having said that, we have to get through what’s been a poor season together.”

The biggest worry is that the manager’s tactics are not being adhered to by the players, and the supporters have turned following their poor run of form. Schalke supporters are used to being in the top-four in the Bundesliga. They’d grown accustomed to top-end finishes, but certainly thought years like 2015 would never return.
Club captain Benedikt Howedes is another player who many sides will have been eying up in the summer, and he questioned the heart and desire of the squad, while hinting that many were going against the manager’s protocol on the pitch. He said: “It’s difficult for me to find explanations for poor performances like this week after week.”

“We were missing everything that makes us Schalke. There was no passion, willingness to run or emotion. It’s a mystery to me that we didn’t stick to what we set out to do. Everyone has to ask themselves whether they really put everything into action. It’s sad that we played that way.”

Schalke are likely to make big changes in the summer to ensure they don’t have another season like this one. They are currently 13 points off a top-four spot in the table, and 31 points adrift of the champions Bayern Munich.

Schalke 04’s chances of Champions League football next season all but over

German Bundesliga side Schalke 04 suffered yet another blow to their hopes of finishing in the top-four of the league following a 0-0 draw away to Augsburg. The Blues ended the day eight points adrift of fourth-placed Bayer Leverkusen, with just seven games of the league campaign to play for.

Schalke have hit a slump in form at the worst possible time too, with the Champions League hopefuls having dropped points in six of their last seven league games. Manager Roberto Di Matteo was somewhat resigned to their failure, and has talked up the importance of getting back to winning ways in their next game.

“Our position now is obviously not easy. We are disappointed not to have won. We must now try to get as many points as possible. We have to beat Freiburg next week to stay in the running,” he said.

The Miners were flying earlier in the season, but have since struggled considerably to gain any consistency in the league in 2015. This places added pressure on Di Matteo considering his predecessors have delivered a top-four finish in the last three seasons. Schalke are currently fifth in the table, and only recently lost to Leverkusen in their second meeting of the season.

Their remaining games suggest they have a realistic chance of picking up some points in their quest for a Champions League spot. However, if they still cannot stop the rot in the Bundesliga, Schalke could find themselves mathematically out of the equation in the coming weeks. The top-four in the German Bundesliga sees holders Bayern Munich at the summit, Wolfsburg in second-place, Borussia Monchengladbach in third, and Leverkusen in fourth.

The Italian manager was being credited with a miraculous turnaround of fortunes with the German club, but their woeful end to the season could well see him looking for employment elsewhere ahead of 2015/16. It leaves Schalke in a difficult situation too, considering they have talented players who remained with the team due to the lure of top European competition. One such player is young starlet Julian Draxler who continues to be linked with a big-money move to a host of big European sides.

The Miners have grown accustomed to Champions League football in recent years, so it will be a massive setback for the German outfit to miss on the lucrative and top tier competition next season. They are likely to be in the Europa League next season, which does little to keep star players happy while also limiting the quality of the players who will happily join the club during the busy transfer market in summer.

So where do Schalke go from here?