After losing on the opening weekend of the new season, Schalke looked to bounce back against Hertha Berlin in their first home game of the season. Unbeaten at home since February, Domenico Tedesco’s team were favourites against Hertha. In front of a packed Veltins Arena, they would disappoint, as their early season struggles continue.
Schalke’s Struggles Continue
In what was supposed to be a statement game, Schalke lost 2-0 in their home opener against Hertha Berlin. Sunday’s win was Hertha’s second in a row to continue their 100% record. Schalke, on the other hand, struggled, losing their second game in a row.
What Went Wrong For Schalke?
Sunday’s game started well for the hosts, with Berlin’s Marko Grujic giving away a penalty after just 12 minutes. Last week saw Nabil Bentaleb step up for the Royal Blues, scoring his team’s only goal in a 2-1 loss to Wolfsburg. This week, Daniel Caligiuri stepped up, with the 30-year-old German missing from the spot. It was downhill from there, a bad start turned into a bad afternoon.
Just three minutes after Caligiuri’s penalty miss, Hertha caught Schalke’s defence sleeping, with Ondrej Duda opening the scoring. From this point onwards, Schalke looked lost, almost bored. New signing Sebastian Rudy was subbed shortly after half-time, with the former Bayern man lacking fitness. Tedesco’s team lacked structure, effort and rarely threatened in the second half. As Hertha retreated, Schalke became desperate, throwing men forward and even forcing a couple of good saves from Rune Jarstein. However, it was too little too late, as Hertha Berlin caught Schalke on the break leading to Yevhen Konoplyanka being sent off.
Just to add insult to injury, Duda scored his second of the game from the free-kick given away by Konoplyanka. Lacklustre, underwhelming and embarrassing, Sunday’s performance is definitely one to forget for Schalke’s players and fans.
No Legitimate Number Ten Option
Two of Schalke’s most important players last season were midfielders Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka. Meyer, now with Crystal Palace and Goretzka now with Bayern Munich were used well by Tedesco last season. Goretzka, a key man before Schalke let him leave on a free, is a big miss due to his goal-scoring abilities. In fact, the former Schalke man scored his first Bundesliga goal for Bayern on Saturday. Meyer was yet another free agent, joining Palace before the start of the season.
Schalke’s midfield is still solid, but on Sunday they lacked creativity. Losing quality players is something Schalke are used to, but, usually, replacements are brought in. This wasn’t the case this time around. Schalke do not have a quality number ten option; that will cost Tedesco’s team eventually.
Handed a competitive group in last week’s draw, Schalke have a good chance of getting through their Champions League group. Set to play Portuguese giants Porto on game day one, they will also face Russian champions Lokomotiv Moscow and Turkish side Galatasaray. Now, this foursome doesn’t feature any outstanding teams, but it’s arguably the toughest group in this year’s competition. Heading into the group as joint-favourites with Porto, Schalke are expected to qualify. However, Tedesco’s team don’t look competitive in the league and are in desperate need of changes.
With the group stages starting in just a few weeks, this team doesn’t have much time to rediscover last season’s form. If their league form carries over, Tedesco and his team could be in big trouble. Schalke fans expect a lot from their team and rightly so. Drawn in a reasonable group, this year is a great opportunity to really achieve something. Collapsing now would see last seasons second place Bundesliga finish go to waste, something no Schalke fan wants to see happen.