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Under-pressure Schalke faces Bayern Munich in Bundesliga

Under-pressure Schalke faces Bayern Munich in Bundesliga

Schalke coach Mirko Slomka is heading into one of the toughest weeks of the season, and his job is on the line.
Schalke hosts Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich on Saturday hoping to revive its fading title chase, then travels to FC Porto seeking to protect a slim 1-0 lead from the first leg of the Champions League's second round.
If Schalke fails in both tasks, Slomka is all but certain to be fired.
Slomka has been there before. Promoted from assistant coach two years ago, Slomka has faced critics and skeptics in the club's own ranks on several occasions. The results went his way when he needed them, however, and he weathered the storms.
But Schalke's hopes of challenging Bayern for the title have collapsed after two straight losses. The club has dropped to fifth and is now nine points behind Bayern, which has 44 points.
Club president Josef Schnusenberg launched the latest discussion about Slomka earlier this week when he suggested Schalke needed a "coach with a great international reputation."
German media reported that Schalke's board has instructed general manager Andreas Mueller to start searching for a new coach.
"What is happening now doesn't strengthen my position," Slomka told Thursday's edition of Kicker magazine. "But we are all in agreement. We all need to roll up our sleeves to be successful over the next games. That means not losing against Bayern, or rather winning. And advancing in Porto."
Mueller tried Thursday to take away some of the pressure.
"There is no ultimatum, that's rubbish. We have full confidence in the coach," the manager said.
Schalke hasn't won the German championship in half a century and has invested heavily over the past few season into new players, with Russian energy giant Gazprom's backing.
To pay off debts and satisfy the management's ambitions, Schalke needs to establish itself permanently in the top three of the Bundesliga _ and finally win the elusive title.
Slomka has blamed himself for the latest setbacks.
"I did not take the necessary steps," he said.
Critics say he is often lenient with his stars and Slomka seems to have accepted such arguments.
"It would be better to be less good guy and more coach," he said.
Bayern hasn't played well lately, managing only draws at home against Werder Bremen and Hamburger SV, some of its closest challengers. But Ottmar Hitzfeld's team has profited from others' mistakes and still has a four-point lead over Werder.
Only a last-minute penalty from Franck Ribery allowed Bayern to overcome crosstown second-division rival 1860 Munich in the German Cup quarterfinals this week.
Striker Miroslav Klose and central defender Lucio picked up injuries in the cup match and are doubtful for Saturday, Bayern said. Klose has a bruised foot and Lucio has groin problems.
On Sunday, third-place Bayer Leverkusen and No. 4 Hamburg, both with 38 points, play separate games. Leverkusen travels to next-door Bochum and Hamburg hosts Eintracht Frankfurt.
Werder Bremen plays Borussia Dortmund at home Saturday.
Hertha Berlin kicks off the 22nd round at home against Duisburg on Friday.
Also Saturday, it's: Energie Cottbus vs. Stuttgart; Hannover 96 vs. FC Nuremberg; Hansa Rostock vs. Arminia Bielefeld; and Karlsruhe vs. Wolfsburg.


Updated : 2021-05-10 04:52 GMT+08:00