A different kind of performance in Darmstadt

The disappointment at the collective showing in FC Schalke 04’s 2-0 loss to Ajax Amsterdam is still fresh a day on from the match, but there is no time for the Royal Blues to dwell. Before the return leg on Thursday, they have the task of overcoming SV Darmstadt 98 in the Bundesliga on Sunday (17:30 CEST kick off). 

“We were all disappointed after the game in Amsterdam,” stated Markus Wenzierl. “Ajax were clearly dominant and created a lot of chances. We have to be thankful to Ralf Fährmann that it was only 2-0. There is not much more I can say about the game. We were unable to put into practice what we had prepared.” However, despite the result, S04 have no plans to give up. “We showed in Monchengladbach that we are capable of overturning a 2-0 deficit,” declared the head coach. “Ajax are of course the favourites, but we will give everything and do all in our power to make it an exciting tie again.”

Still, though, before the comeback push can begin, S04 must face up to Darmstadt 98. “We have to focus on Darmstadt before we can start thinking about Ajax again.” Currently at the foot of the Bundesliga table, Darmstadt could be relegated this weekend if results do not go their way. “Although Darmstadt are currently last in the table, they can play with freedom,” Weinzierl warned in his pre-match talk with the collected press. “They have played far better in many games than their standings suggest. We will need a good performance and have to be completely focused on the match in order to get three more important points.”

With that in mind, Schalke will be looking to approach the game in the same vein they did their last Bundesliga match, a 4-1 home triumph over VfL Wolfsburg. Darmstadt currently sit on 15 points, all of which have come in home matches. “Our problem at the moment is consistency. In simple terms, we just have too many fluctuations in our performance levels. We have to be dominate offensively again in Darmstadt and make sure we want the points more than the opposition,” continued Weinzierl. 

There are a few complications for Schalke with regard to team selection. Sead Kolasinac was initially named in the starting eleven for the match with Ajax, but withdrew in the warm-up, while Benedikt Höwedes is also experiencing some issues. On the personnel problems, Weinzierl noted that it would be a “close call” with regard to Kolasinac. “I hope that he is back available as soon as possible,” adding “Benedikt has a problem with his calf,” but it remains unclear whether or not he will be able to play in Darmstadt. S04 will certainly be without the services of Matija Nastasic in Darmstadt, after the Serbian centre back picked up his fifth yellow card of the season against Wolfsburg, rendering him suspended for the match.

Facts and stats ahead of the game

  • S04 have already picked up more points in their matches in 2017 (19) than they did in the first half of the campaign before the winter break (18). 

  • Darmstadt currently have the worst overall record of any team since the introduction of the three-point-rule (15 points, goal difference -37).

  • SVD have lost 21 of their 28 league matches. The most defeats recorded by one team in a single campaign was Tasmania Berlin in the 1965/66 season (24).

  • Felix Platte is on loan at Darmstadt from S04. He has had an injury-plagued campaign, starting for the first time just last week.