Augsburg - After leaving the field with just a point at FC Augsburg, there was little for FC Schalke 04 to do but accept the result and move on, not least because of two upcoming games that could decide the direction the club takes in 2013.
The Royal Blues could even count themselves lucky that they did not come away from Bavaria empty-handed against their spirited hosts, who moved out of the bottom two by extending their unbeaten start to the new year.
The stalemate followed last week's narrow 4-3 win over Hannover 96 and provided further evidence that Schalke are yet to convince under new coach Jens Keller. Lewis Holtby played deeper than he did eight days ago, and was one of the team's brightest sparks in central midfield. Yet despite stating a preference for being more involved in attack, Germany’s U-21 captain said the tactics had not deprived Schalke of more than just a share of the spoils.
“Of course I prefer to play higher up the pitch, there’s no question about that, but playing in the anchor role is a position I like to play as well,” he said exclusively bundesliga.com. “You run a lot, you see a lot of the ball and you get into the battle more. I don’t mind playing either position really. It’s a team sport - if the coach has his tactics, then you have to stick behind them and focus on your game, not act like a diva and want to play in a more attacking position. You have to stick by your team and run the 90 minutes. That’s the key.”
Teamwork will be the key to achieving the objectives Schalke have set themselves over the coming weeks and months. Qualifying for Europe again is the priority, while reaching the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League is more than just a secondary aim. And with the last-16 tie with Galatasaray AS on the horizon, Holtby is already looking ahead to an important and busy period of fixtures.
“We have a home game against Fürth coming up and it’s going to be an important match where we need to pick up three points,” he said. “And then we have Galatasaray, which is going to be a very difficult game away from home in their stadium. They have one of the biggest crowds in football and it’s not going to be easy there. But hopefully, if we can get a good result in the first leg - maybe like the result today- we can take that home for the second game in Gelsenkirchen.”
His teammate Julian Draxler did not want to get ahead of himself, though, preferring to follow the adage of taking each game as it comes. “I think the first thing is to get three points against Greuther Fürth, that’s an important game for us,” said the 19-year-old. “After that, we have another highlight against Galatasaray. We know that’s going to be a completely different match in Turkey, but I think we’re a strong enough team to defeat them.”
Ben Gladwell and Bernie Reeves