Uth, Kabak and Wagner breathe a sigh of relief

The final score in the 4-2 defeat against Viktoria Köln wasn’t the most important thing – Mark Uth and Ozan Kabak’s comebacks were the key thing from Friday’s friendly. Both players were able to play the full 90 minutes after a long time on the sidelines. Head coach Wagner was also pleased that he has two more players fit and ready for the next Bundesliga game at SC Paderborn.

Mark Uth couldn’t hide his delight to be back on the pitch against Viktoria Köln. Schalke’s striker, signed from Hoffenheim in 2018, made a successful comeback from injury. Uth was so desperate for his return, he knew exactly how long he’d been out for: “I was out for exactly five months and a week.”

The 28-year-old put in an impressive display, causing a number of difficult moments for the Köln defence, evening score Schalke’s first goal in the 33rd minute: “Mark Uth made a lot of great runs and could easily have scored four goals,” said Wagner. Uth was also happy with his game, despite the defeat: “I felt really good and I’m not in any pain anymore. Obviously we should have scored one or two more goals.”

I felt really good and I’m not in any pain anymore.

Mark Uth

It would have been fairly understandable if Uth’s mind would have still had his injury on it, especially as he was out for so long – his last game came in the 1-0 away win at Hannover on 31st March, but this wasn’t the case for him. “I managed to completely forget the injury. My head has been clear for a few weeks now. I just couldn’t wait to play football again and I’m 100% fit.”

Ozan Kabak also made his return to the pitch, making his comeback but also his first appearance for the Royal Blues at the same time. After signing from Stuttgart in the summer, the Turkey international suffered a foot injury in only his second training session at the club. The injury turned out to be fairly serious and it subsequently kept him out of the whole of pre-season. “I’ve actually only missed three Bundesliga games. I’m obviously missing the match fitness I should have gained in pre-season, but I wasn’t completely out of action,” explained the 19-year-old.

Lacking that match practice

Kabak’s last competitive outing was over three months ago as he played for VfB Stuttgart in the relegation play-off at Union Berlin. “Obviously I wasn’t happy to be injured so soon after signing and it wasn’t great to be out for so long. I’m used to playing a lot of football, so it was tough for me.”

His foot held up well for the friendly against Viktoria Köln and he managed to play the full 90 minutes. Wagner was pleased with the centre-half’s display, even if it wasn’t 100% perfect: “Ozan is a really presence and is calm on the ball. In some situations though you could tell he had been out for three months. It’s normal to be lacking that match practice though.”

Head coach David Wagner now has Uth and Kabak available to him for the coming weeks. Both are potential starters in his side, which makes them hugely valuable for the season as a whole: “It’s extremely important to us that we have them both fit again. They provide us with more alternatives, which we have been missing in pre-season and the start of the season.”

Wagner had been reluctant to throw the players into the deep end by playing them so soon in the Bundesliga, so the friendly against Viktoria Köln was the perfect chance for them to build their fitness up. Both players will hopefully be in the squad again for the Paderborn game.

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