Stevens eyes Schalke's Champions League progress
GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AFP) –
Schalke 04 coach Huub Stevens has said the Royal Blues are fully focused on reaching the knock-out phase of the Champions League when they host Olympiakos on Wednesday.
Schalke slumped to a shock 2-0 defeat at Leverkusen on Saturday in the Bundesliga, but another win over Greece’s Olympiakos will put the Group B leaders in the draw for the knock-out stage.
Television cameras picked up Stevens angrily sending midfielders Lewis Holtby and Jefferson Farfan to the Schalke dressing room after the pair were substituted against Leverkusen, but the Dutch said there is no problem.
“That’s history, we are focused on our goal to reach the next round,” said Stevens after team manager Horst Heldt accused the team of “collective failure” in Leverkusen.
Having called an hour-long team meeting on Sunday morning, the tension from the Leverkusen defeat had clearly been worked out during a light-hearted training session on Tuesday.
“What should we do? Burst into tears?,” asked US midfielder Jermaine Jones.
“We’ve spoken about the situation and we have to put it behind us.
“The fact that one or two players are frustrated is part of it and shows that they are fired up for his game. That’s a good sign.”
Schalke have a few injury problems with wing Ibrahim Afellay out with a thigh strain, while midfielder Marco Hoeger is also injured.
Both defenders Atsuto Uchida and Christoph Metzelder are returning from injury.
Dutch star Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has gone 580 mins without a goal in the Bundesliga, but has scored in all four rounds of the Champions League and Stevens was gruff when asked if the Dutchman would score against Olympiakos.
“I am not God, I’m just a coach who wears running shoes and I don’t know what will happen tomorrow,” he said grumpily.
Having beaten Arsenal in London, Schalke drew 2-2 at home against the Gunners a fortnight ago and are eager to secure a place in the knock-out phase before their last group game on December 4 at Montpellier.
Heldt revealed failure to progress in the Champions League and a place in the Europa League would mean a financial loss of “a high seven-figure sum”.