Schalke head to Galatasaray in defiant mood
With one win in their last 11 games, Schalke 04 fly to Turkey for Wednesday's Champions League last 16, first-leg in defiant mood despite low self-belief and with coach Jens Keller unsure of his future.
Having dropped from second to 10th in the Bundesliga, Brazil midfielder Michel Bastos saved Schalke's blushes on Saturday with two goals as they twice came from behind to draw 2-2 at Mainz and the precious point lifted them to eighth.
Schalke avoided travelling to Istanbul on the back of a third straight defeat, having been thumped 4-0 by Bayern Munich the previous week, with goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand admitting: "At least we know we're still alive".
The Royal Blues face runaway Turkish league leaders Galatasaray, who have been boosted by the signings of Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba, in the cauldron of Istanbul with USA midfielder Jermaine Jones insisting they must show belief.
"We have to go there with aggression and without fear", said defensive midfielder Jones.
"We know that we have quality and it was good that we also showed some morale against Mainz."
But Schalke's impressive 2-0 win at Arsenal in the group stage last October is now a distant memory and they will have to substantially improve upon recent performances to reach the quarter-finals.
Keller is in a precarious position and has made little impact in terms of results since taking charge in December: his team's thrilling 5-4 victory over Hanover 96 at the end of January is his only win in five games.
"Jens will be on the bench in Istanbul," said Schalke's general manager Horst Heldt, who has said Keller is safe until the end of the season.
"We want to stick with what we have decided upon."
The Royal Blues have become the butt of a much-publicised joke here in Germany after a supporters website schalkefan.de produced the game "Schalke's Crisis Bullshit Bingo" in response to hearing too many excuses for poor performances.
With typical phrases such as "we didn't carry out what was planned" and "we have to pull together" in a five-by-five grid, fans can tick off each stock phase when they hear them from Keller or Heldt in post-match interviews.
"Of course, we'll make no bones about it, we have to work out the poor performances," said Heldt, before adding with a touch of humour: "I think I just filled in another bingo row".
Related Schalke News