Soccer

European storylines roundup: Schalke 04 lead list of clubs in disarray

A roundup of all the stories from around Europe you might have missed. This week, everybody’s in crisis.

Schalke 04 in freefall

Schalke 04 are winless, rooted to the bottom of Germany’s Bundesliga and the laughingstock of Europe at present after suspending two players, firing another and also parting ways with a technical director this week — all before a positive COVID-19 case was registered in the senior squad.

The Royal Blues are not the only side in the league yet to record a win with Cologne also struggling for form so far this campaign, but the Billy Goats’ malaise does not stretch as far back as Schalke’s with the Gelsenkirchen club without a Bundesliga win since January.

It is bad enough that the seven-time German champions are approaching a full calendar year without a league victory so demoting Amine Harit and Nabil Bentaleb, sacking Vedad Ibisevic — who was donating his basic wage to charity — and separating with Michael Reschke will not have helped.

As referenced in an official explanation by sporting director Jochen Schneider, Ibisevic clashed with staff member and former player Naldo at training, while Harit and Bentaleb have been separated for the good of the team.

This weekend’s Bundesliga clash away at Borussia Monchengladbach, funnily enough, pits Schalke against the last team that they beat, all the way back in January at Veltins-Arena — could the Miners be about to snap that barren run?

Bayer Leverkusen, Augsburg, Freiburg and Arminia Bielefeld are the other teams Schalke will face before the end of the year in what Schneider has acknowledged are “hugely important Bundesliga games.”

Germany: Werder Bremen the draw machine

A quirkier story in Germany is that of Werder Bremen’s current run of five consecutive 1-1 draws to sit midtable.

Florian Kohfeldt’s men have held Freiburg, Hoffenheim, Eintracht Frankfurt, Cologne and Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich — two away from home — and have Wolfsburg away this Friday.

Could Werder be about to register a sixth straight 1-1 draw?

France: Saint-Etienne struggling intensifies, Tuchel and AVB seats get hotter

On the topic of poor runs of form, Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1 could be joining Schalke in the European crisis club shortly as they are 16th in the table and just two points above the bottom three.

Although not as bleak positionally as the Germans, the Greens — also hailing from a mining region — are on an awful run of eight Championnat matches without a win and seven losses in a row in their joint-worst run of form with a dreadful 2008 period.

Will Lille visiting Stade Geoffroy-Guichard this weekend having lost just once all campaign, Claude Puel’s men face a tough task to keep the pressure off of their beleaguered coach.

It puts Thomas Tuchel’s capital struggles with PSG into perspective after the German tactician lost his cool and challenged a journalist to visit his players in the dressing room to ask how committed they are after a narrow 1-0 home win over RB Leipzig kept their Champions League hopes alive.

Still, things could be worse for Tuchel, as Marseille showed on Wednesday with a 2-0 home loss to Porto confirming a new record low for OM with their 13th consecutive defeat — the worst run in Champions League history.

The euphoria that surrounded Andre Villas-Boas’ men finishing second last season feels very far away.

Italy: Conte’s Champions League struggles continue

The crises are not only limited to Germany and France, with Inter Milan and Antonio Conte staring down the barrel at a humiliating drop into the Europa League, at best, after their home loss to Real Madrid this week.

With Monchengladbach stunning everybody by leading Group B, the Italians’ decision to stick by their coach after last season’s post-Europa League final outburst appears short-sighted with the team also five points off the pace in Serie A.

Still, winless Crotone this weekend might make Inter feel that things could be worse.

Spain: Can Osasuna help Barcelona get back on track

Despite their strong Champions League form, Barcelona are not free of crisis either with the team mired in 13th but with two games in hand.

Ronald Koeman’s men need points on the board starting this weekend at home to Osasuna who will be starting to look towards the foot of the table at winless Huesca and basement side Celta Vigo who recently appointed Eduardo Coudet as coach.

West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United in the Premier League are the only two other European sides still without a league win this term, although Huesca do have a Werder-esque seven draws to their name already.



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