BERLIN (AFP) – Roberto di Matteo begins his reign as Schalke 04’s coach on Saturday by attempting to turn around the Royal Blues’ fortunes when they host Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga.
Despite having qualified for the Champions League, Schalke are 11th in the table and brought in former Azzurri star di Matteo to replace the sacked Jens Keller.
Keller’s 22-month tenure ended last week after his side took eight points from their first seven games and their 2-0 defeat to Hoffenheim was the final straw.
Having won the Champions League title with Chelsea in 2012, di Matteo has trained Schalke behind closed doors and wants a good start against Hertha, who are 12th in the table.
The 44-year-old has two home games in quick succession as Schalke host Sporting Lisbon in their Champions League group on Tuesday with Schalke are third in the table.
Di Matteo has set the goal of progressing to the knockout stage in Europe and finishing in the Bundesliga’s top three to guarantee their Champions League place next season.
The Swiss-born Italian says there are “no miracles in football” but he is Schalke’s fifth coach in five years and is under pressure to get results quickly. At the top of the table, Bayern Munich are out to add to their four-point lead when they host bottom side Werder Bremen at the Allianz Arena on Saturday.
Bremen have taken heavy beatings at the hands of the Bavarians in their last three games having been trounced 5-2 in Munich last April and 7-0 in Bremen last December.
They have leaked 15 goals in their last three visits to Munich.
Bayern had some bad news in mid-week as Spain midfielder Thiago Alcantara faces a fresh operation after re-injuring the medial ligament in his right knee.
Even with the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery and Javi Martinez on the long-term injury list, Bayern coach Pep Guardiola has plenty of strength in depth.
Poland striker Robert Lewandowski and Netherlands winger Arjen Robben both scored two goals each as the Bavarians trounced Hanover 96 4-0 in Munich two weeks ago.
The result left Bayern four points clear and they are hunting a fifth-straight win before next week’s Champions League trip to play AS Roma away.
In contrast, Borussia Dortmund badly need to get their Bundesliga campaign back on track when they play Cologne away on Saturday with Jurgen Klopp demanding a fresh start from his squad.
Dortmund have won both of their opening Champions League matches to top their group, but their Bundesliga form has deserted them.
They are winless in their last four league matches to drop to 13th – their worst start to the domestic season for five years – and need a booster before playing Galatasaray away on Wednesday in Europe.
Germany midfielders Marco Reus and Ilkay Gundogan, plus Arminia’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan are working their way back to fitness with Gundogan having last played for Dortmund 14 months ago after a back injury.