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Metzelder sees the light for Schalke

Christoph Metzelder is eager to get FC Schalke 04 out of "the mess" they are in in the Bundesliga but first he aims to maintain their winning run in Group B at Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC.

Christoph Metzelder (No21) trains with team-mates Benedikt Höwedes and Ivan Rakitić in Tel-Aviv
Christoph Metzelder (No21) trains with team-mates Benedikt Höwedes and Ivan Rakitić in Tel-Aviv ©Getty Images

The UEFA Champions League must provide a welcome distraction at the moment for an FC Schalke 04 side enduring a miserable time of it in Germany.

Felix Magath's team lie second bottom of the Bundesliga after a 1-0 home loss to Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Saturday, which was their eighth defeat in 16 fixtures in all competitions – as many as they suffered in the whole of last term. Yet, as defender Christoph Metzelder acknowledges, in the UEFA Champions League, they are already eyeing progress to the last 16 as they seek to build on home wins over SL Benfica and Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC, their opponents again back in Tel-Aviv on Tuesday.

"The Champions League is different," said the German international. "I know we haven't shone in the league but in the Champions League we can see a route to the next stage of the competition." Perhaps because of Schalke's own domestic plight, though, Metzelder knows better than to underestimate the threat that Hapoel, bottom of Group B, could pose.

Schalke beat them 3-1 in Gelsenkirchen on Matchday 3 but Metzelder warned: "I think Hapoel are a good team who just happened to get us on a good day for our forwards. We have to be careful and give the best we can here, because Hapoel can still produce a good game and we don't want them getting their first points at our expense. We take each game very seriously and we want to come away from here with all three points."

Hapoel could end the night eliminated but striker Toto Tarmuz, scorer of two goals in their 3-2 weekend win over Hapoel Beer-Sheva FC, said they had to be "more efficient and stronger than before". Metzelder has the same hope for himself, reflecting on his poor start to life with Schalke, whom he joined last summer from Real Madrid CF.

"It's true I started the season poorly but I feel I am improving now," said the centre-half, who turns 30 on Friday. "I had a great time at Real and I also enjoy Schalke," he added. "The training and approach are very different from one team to the other, but I get on very well with Felix [Magath] and also with the whole team. We hope that together we can pull ourselves from the mess that we've got stuck in in the league."