Domenico Tedesco: We want to continue the good progress that we made last year

With the internal fitness tests and the first training session in the books, Domenico Tedesco was happy with what he’d seen. “The boys looked in really good shape. They’ve recharged their batteries and every player clearly stuck to their individual training plans in their time off,” says the Royal Blues’ head coach.

Around 2000 fans were on hand on Sunday to give Tedesco and his team a very warm welcome. “It was a really nice feeling,” says the 32-year-old, who spent a good 45 minutes signing autographs and taking selfies with fans after training had ended.

China tour very beneficial in bringing the squad closer together

After two further training sessions on Monday, the team are due to set off for China in the evening. Even though there are many tiring days ahead for him and his team, Tedesco is really looking forward to the trip to the Middle Kingdom. “It’s really beneficial to spend a lot of time together as a team at the beginning of the preseason when you have all of your new signings on hand for the first time,” explains the coach. “It’s the best way to get to know one another.” The trip will be invaluable for squad integration.

It’s really beneficial to spend a lot of time together as a team at the beginning of the preseason when all of your new signings are on hand for the first time.

Domenico Tedesco

The Knappen will take part in two friendlies while they are in China. On Thursday, they will play against Premier League club Southampton FC before playing Chinese first division side Hebei China Fortune FC six days later. “They will be two very interesting games,” says Tedesco, who has also planned for a lot of diverse training session in the Far East. It won’t just be football that takes centre stage, he adds. “We have a lot of options there: basketball, table tennis and an extensive gym.”

Looking to continue making good progress

Much like last year, Tedesco is keeping his goals for the season close to his chest. “I won’t talk about a specific place in the table,” he emphasises. “The more important thing is to continue making progress. We did that very successfully last year and now we are looking to build on it. The players should feel like they are getting better in every part of their game. If that happens, then that will translate over to the results on the pitch.”

Tedesco explains that the five new signings Omar Mascarell, Salif Sané, Suat Serdar, Steven Skrzybinski and Mark Uth will make an already strong squad even stronger. “I’m really happy with all of them. They fit what we want to do in footballing terms, but also on a personal level. I sensed that ever since I first spoke to them,” says the 32-year-old.

Riether very important to the team

Tedesco is also very happy about Sascha Riether’s contract extension, which came about very quickly according to the coach. “I asked Sascha: ‘Can you imagine … ?’ And before I could even finish my sentence he said: ‘Definitely, I’d love to!’” Tedesco maintains that Riether will have a very important role to play within the team, even though the 35-year-old didn’t even make an appearance last year. “Sascha has some unbelievable qualities and is hugely important for the team. He’s always there if other players need some guidance,” praises Tedesco, before adding: “Sascha is also valuable on the pitch as well. Nine out of ten of his crosses will arrive exactly where they need to. No one else is that consistent really. His ambition, his attitude and his character – he is what every player at FC Schalke 04 should aspire to be like.”

There is one player who he must do without at first, however. Bastian Oczipka is still struggling with his fitness, which was also the case in the second half of last season. “He will undergo an operation on Wednesday and will be out of action for a few weeks,” reports Tedesco. Abdul-Rahman Baba, who also plies his trade down the left-hand side, is coming along well. The Ghanaian, who made his comeback from a serious knee injury against Eintract Frankfurt on matchday 34, has made a good impression. “Baba works hard, has done a lot of extra sessions and is looking forward to taking part in a full pre-season after so long out with injury.”

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