Last Thursday at Amsterdam, Schalke 04 lost 2-0 against Ajax in a game where the Dutch side were completely dominant. Thanks to a great performance from Ralf Fährmann, there’s still hope for the Germans.
Though, they will have to show a different face if they want to turn things around and reach the semi-finals as they are in pretty bad form since the end of March. The defeat against SV Darmstadt 98 last weekend was further proof of that.
After eliminating Borussia Mönchengladbach in the last 16, everyone in Gelsenkirchen was starting to believe that the season would take a positive turn. But their disappointing performance last weekend changed that.
The second leg is now an opportunity for the team to bring back that feeling. Being backed by their fans, as they are playing at home could be important, it could bring them some more energy and confidence in a tough period. But there’s something that the fans won’t be able to bring, it is defensive strength as well as aggressive play. Two things which were missing last Thursday, but also in many games this season. If the players can do that, it is not yet a lost cause.
On the other hand, Ajax are full of confidence as well as determination. Indeed, since the start of 2017 they have lost just two games, a league game against Excelsior in January and a UEFA Europa League game in March against FC Copenhagen.
They also have endured just three draws, apart from that, there are only victories which is quite impressive considering the young team they have. This attacking squad, comprised of players such as the rising star Kasper Dolberg or Hakim Ziyech, are one of the favourites to win the title this year.
Markus Weinzierl and his players believe in a miracle
On Wednesday, Markus Weinzierl discussed the game against the Dutch side and he seemed quite confident despite the disadvantageous result: “In the last 16, we were 2-0 down at half-time in the second-leg against Mönchengladbach and we won, because we kept believing until the end. We now have 90 minutes against Ajax to turn it around. The boys have left a good impression in training; every individual player is highly motivated and wants to do better than we did last time.”
Weinzierl also spoke about what his team will have to do if they want to reach the semi-finals: “We need to be brave, both when we have the ball and when we don’t have the ball. We didn’t do that in the first-leg." He also hopes that the fans will create a special atmosphere: “We need to be right up for it and then the feeling will transmit from the pitch the stands!”
Later, Guido Burgstaller who arrived during the winter break, also expressed his feelings about the upcoming game and the fans: “I believe that we can create a small miracle and get through. We need to score three goals in the VELTINS Arena which we managed in our games there against Augsburg and Wolfsburg. We have our fans behind us and in our own stadium, anything is possible.”
The Austrian striker asked his team-mates to give everything they have to satisfy everyone: “The energy needs to be transmitted from us to the fans. We’re responsible for putting in a strong performance and giving absolutely everything. We weren’t good in the duels in Amsterdam and in Darmstadt we didn’t concentrate in front of goal. Neither of those things is allowed to happen."
Leon Goretzka declared on the official club website that he and his teammates will have to improve: “We had problems in our duels, but I am convinced that this time out we are in a position to ensure that they swing our way. We have to work to disrupt Ajax's build-up play in the early phases and use the home atmosphere to our advantage. With that, we will have things on our side that we did not in the first leg. We need to have hope and really throw ourselves into the game."
Peter Bosz keeps a cool head even with the 2-0 victory in the first leg
Ajax's head coach, Peter Bosz also faced the media to talk about the clash against the German team. He asked to his team to forget the scoreline from last Thursday: "It would be a huge achievement if we get it. But the biggest mistake we can make is already looking beyond tomorrow's game. We will play out properly and be tremendously focused."
Then, the Dutch manager added that they will continue to attack no matter what in order to secure qualification as an away goal could be the killer. For him, the fact that Schalke are playing at home is a big factor, though they are convinced that they can still progress to the next round if they reproduce what they did during the first leg.
Some players are set to miss that clash
The home-side will have to without young defender, Thilo Kehrer who is suspended. Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, who has a knee injury as well as Coke who is not on the list to play in the Europa League. There is a question mark over two key players for the Königsblauen: Sead Kolasinac and Benedikt Höwedes both have muscular problems.
The away side is more fortunate as Daley Sinkgraven is the only absentee, and Lasse Schöne is back after being suspend last week.