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STRENGTH & WEAKNESSES
It’s difficult to say because Schalke 04 is basically a new team, not comparable to that of last season. During the last couple of years, the best part of the team was the well-organised defence that conceded only a few goals. As the first matches of the new Bundesliga season have shown, Schalke have lost quality all over the pitch but mainly in defence. Additionally new defender Christoph Metzelder has to convince the crowd of his ‘Schalke identity’ after playing for huge rivals Borussia Dortmund earlier in his career. A huge job.
Because of their busy transfer campaign, the squad need to get used to each other first of all. This process of approximation will take time, probably months – and it could be much longer due to the fact that some important signings were last minute transfers who have to acclimatise themselves to a new club and a new culture.
Schalke’s strengths are a fantastic crowd and a coach who has a strong personality. Besides, Schalke are a surprise bag for its opponents as well as they have no idea of what to expect from this team!
STARS & KEY PLAYER
Until last season the star players Kevin Kuranyi. But the former German international joined Dinamo Moscow in Russia this season. The important key players were Schalke’s back four, who built the best defence in Bundesliga: Heiko Westermann, Marcelo Bordon, Benedikt Hoewedes and Rafinha. But apart from Hoewedes they all left Schalke 04. The new season will show who the new stars and key players are. The spectacular signings Raul (Real Madrid) and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan) are two favourites. Midfielder and new ‘idea generator’ Jurado (Atletico Madrid) is another one.
COACH & TACTICS
Felix Magath is one of the best-recognised coaches in Germany. He accomplished the feat of winning the German Bundesliga with VfL Wolfsburg in 2009 - a real sensation! By the way, in Wolfsburg Magath turned his team inside out as well. Will history repeat itself? Schalke’s trusty fans have been waiting for the next German championship for more than fifty years.
Even though his team played very defensive football last year, Magath prefers an attractive style, as he demonstrated during his time at Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg. Now that he has changed his team substantially got his ideas into shape, Schalke might prefer a more attacking way of playing. Probably Schalke will play in a 4-4-2, with Jurado as playmaker and the strikers Raul and Huntelaar.
Schalke 04 is one of Germany’s most storied clubs. This was one reason why Real Madrid striker Raul decided to come here. Schalke won German Championship seven times, but the last one was in 1958! Nine times die Knappen have finished in second place – so Schalke and its fans are really longing for the next Bundesliga title! Schalke have won the German cup four times, with their last triumph in 2002. The greatest European success happened in 1997 when Schalke won the UEFA Cup against big favourite Inter in a penalty shoot-out.
The new Veltins Arena (named after a famous brewery) displaced the old Parkstadion in 2001. Because of its roof, that can be totally closed, it seems to be more of a hall than a traditional stadium. A special highlight is the turf which can be driven electronically outside the stadium to get enough air and rain! Schalke’s crowd is famous and one of the best and most loyal in Germany. To get tickets is very difficult because nearly every match is sold out. The capacity of Veltins Arena is about 61,600 seats.
HERO OF THE FANS
Manuel Neuer, the 24-year-old goalkeeper. Germany’s number one during the World Cup in 2010 was born in Gelsenkirchen (Schalke is a suburb of Ruhr area town Gelsenkirchen) and until now always played for Schalke 04 – also in its youth teams. Bayern Munich is strongly interested in signing him but Neuer seems to be the only Schalke player who is unmarketable. If he scores like in former seasons, fans will love Raul of course. The Spaniard is just a pleasant fellow!
Schalke’s best result in Champions League was the quarter-finals in 2007-08, when Barcelona was too strong. This won’t change during the present campaign. In Group B with Olympique Lyon, Benfica and Hapoel Tel Aviv, Schalke could go through in second place, but the first knock out phase will be Schalke’s final destination in 2010-11.
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