David Wagner: Focused on finding solutions, not problems
Three days on from an intense match against Eintracht Frankfurt, Schalke are eying up their next opponents. On Wednesday (18.12, 20:30 CET), the Royal Blues will play their final away game ahead of the winter break in Wolfsburg.
“Wolfsburg are a top team,” head coach David Wagner said without hesitation when asked about the upcoming opponents. “They had a phase where they weren’t doing so well, but deservedly beat Gladbach last time out. They play with a lot of intensity and speed, and are a quality team on all positions. They’ve had some difficulty using their chances this season – we wouldn’t mind if that was also the case on Wednesday,” Wagner said.
Doubts ahead of the Wolfsburg match
It remains to be seen who the head coach will nominate to the squad to face Wolfsburg. After dislocating his shoulder in Sunday’s 1-0 home win against Eintracht Frankfurt, Weston McKennie will definitely not be available to feature. McKennie, who had been helping out at centre-back in recent weeks, will undergo a conservative treatment plan for his injury and will likely make his return in February. Benjamin Stambouli will also not feature again before the winter break. “After his most recent medical, we aren’t willing to take a risk with him. He will return during our preparations after Christmas,” said Wagner. Whether or not Matija Nastasic will feature against Wolfsburg is still up in the air. After recovering from a bruised foot, Ahmed Kutucu will likely return to the squad, dependent on the final training session ahead of Wednesday’s game.
The numerous injuries within the squad don’t make the task at hand any easier for the coaches and the team, but Wagner is not spending too much time thinking about this. “We’re looking for solutions, not problems. The team have proven themselves more than capable of standing strong in the face of adversity,” Wagner said. “The way the lads have dealt with these setbacks over the past few weeks has been spectacular.”
The team have proven themselves more than capable of standing strong in the face of adversity
Alongside the injured players, Alexander Nübel is also unavailable after his red card in the Frankfurt match. The S04 captain will serve a four-match ban for his foul on Mijat Gacinovic. In the meantime, Markus Schubert is expected to fill in. Wagner was more than satisfied with the U21 international’s performance after coming on against Eintracht. “It can’t have been easy to come into such a heated, important and tight game, especially against a team who were throwing everything forward,” said Wagner, who is confident that goalkeeping coach Simon Henzler will prepare Schubert well for Schalke’s upcoming opponents.
Giving 100% again
As the winter break approaches, the Royal Blues need to summon the strength for one last push. Wagner knows how important the fans will be for this. “We’re hoping that the fans will be behind us again in Wolfsburg, just like they were at home. The guys need that support.”