Christian Gross: We won’t hold back

FC Schalke 04 are in midweek action in the DFB-Pokal on Wednesday (3/2, 18:30 CET), travelling to face VfL Wolfsburg in the round of 16. For head coach Christian Gross and his side, the game is more than just a distraction to their disappointing Bundesliga campaign so far.

Christian Gross

“Everyone is excited – it’s a different competition. We’re playing for a cup, a nice trophy,” said the Swiss coach. “It’s an important game and we won’t hold back.”

Benito Raman and Alessandro Schöpf are both available to take on the side third in the Bundesliga, while Suat Serdar and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar are both doubts. Serdar missed the weekend’s game at Bremen with a cold, whereas Huntelaar doesn’t have a big problem, but Gross wants to be careful with his fitness levels and game time. “We don’t know yet if he’ll make another cameo tomorrow or whether we’ll make an exception and rest him for the game on Saturday.”

Mustafi not yet available

Shkodran Mustafi, who joined S04 from Arsenal on deadline day (1/2), will definitely not feature against Wolfsburg. The 28-year-old has had three negative tests for Covid-19 at the Gooners since 25th January and will be tested again on Tuesday. It’s not yet clear when Mustafi will be able to join team training – the club are in contact with the local health authorities regarding the matter. Head coach Gross is looking forward to working with Mustafi: “I hold him in high regard – he’s a reliable player,” said the 66-year-old. “We’ve gained a centre-back with a lot of experience, which will do us a lot of good during our current situation.”

At the same time, Ozan Kabak has left to join Liverpool on loan for the rest of the season. Benjamin Stambouli and Malick Thiaw are the two candidates to replace him alongside Matija Nastasic in the centre of defence on Wednesday. As Gross stated a few weeks ago, Frederik Rönnow will also start in goal.

We can raise our game to their level.

Christian Gross

The Royal Blues are well aware of how difficult the game will be, but still believe in their chances of reaching the quarterfinals. According to Gross, the team needs to “play like they did in the first half against Bremen for a longer period of time.” Now, Schalke will face a team “that are deservedly in the top third of the Bundesliga table. They are an established team, have great chemistry and Wout Weghorst is an extremely dangerous striker,” praised Gross. Nonetheless, the S04 boss believes his side can “raise their game to their level.”

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