It has been a turbulent week for FC Schalke 04. First the Royal Blues bowed out of the UEFA Champions League to FC Barcelona despite a brave quarter-final second-leg performance at Camp Nou. Then, at the weekend, they lost 5-1 to Werder Bremen to surrender second place, which carries an automatic UEFA Champions League group stage berth.
That result marked the end of the road for Mirko Slomka, with the Schalke board's criticisms of the coach having long since spilled into the media. On Sunday morning, he was dismissed. "We've got into a situation now that could have a very negative impact on the team and endanger our goal of qualifying for the Champions League," general manager Andreas Müller explained. "That's why we moved quickly now."
Ahead of tonight's Bundesliga visit of FC Energie Cottbus, former player Mike Büskens, who had been coaching the club's fourth division reserve team, was appointed as caretaker coach. The 40-year-old, part of the 1997 UEFA Cup-winning side, said: "Given our situation, only results count. It is very important for the club to qualify for the Champions League."
Büskens, assisted by former team-mate Youri Mulder, takes charge for the first time against an Energie team who have eased their relegation worries with three straight wins against their main rivals for the drop. The new Schalke coach has not been helped by injuries to Levan Kobiashvili (groin), Zlatan Bajramović (toes), Markus Heppke (shoulder), Gustavo Varela (thyroid), Zé Roberto (thigh) and Ivan Rakitić (ankle). "It will be important to take pressure off our team," Büskens said. "It will be a very emotional game on Tuesday. We need all the support we can get from our fans."
Energie coach Bojan Prašnikar insists that the turbulence at Schalke is no advantage for his side. "We will have to concentrate on ourselves," he said. "Schalke are one of the best teams in Germany and they have the quality to play well. We will only stand a chance if we play above ourselves. Anything is possible in the Bundesliga. We have won against FC Bayern [München] and [MSV] Duisburg, won at Bremen and Hamburger [SV]. We can beat anyone."
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