Bucharest - The look on the face of FC Schalke 04 captain Benedikt Höwedes after his side’s goalless draw with Steaua Bucuresti on the penultimate matchday of the UEFA Champions League group campaign said it all.

Frustrated, raw and anything but content, the 25-year-old’s unabashed angst was merely a reflection of another trying shift at the office, which leaves the Royal Blues in the precarious position of having to win their final Group E encounter at home to Swiss side FC Basel to seal their progression to the last 16.

'We could have lost'


“We’re not taking the result lightly,” explained Höwedes. “We kept a clean sheet at the back and put together some good moves. In doing so, we created chances to score, but we didn’t take them. At the same time, we were also a bit lucky that we didn’t concede.”

Schalke left back Christian Fuchs, who had a goal ruled out midway through the first half, shared his skipper’s frank view of events in the bitterly cold Romanian capital, adding “It was disappointing. We had chances to win it. In the end, we have to be happy with a point. We could have won, but we also could have lost.”

'When it matters most'


One thing is for sure, Schalke can ill afford a repeat of such a tepid display when the Swiss champions come calling on Matchday 6 in a veritable case of win or bust. “We want to stay in the Champions League,” affirmed Schalke’s rising midfield star Max Meyer. “It’s a proper final against Basel. We really want to win. I’m sure we’ll make it happen.”

Should they fail, the Royal Blues will instead be plying their post-winter trade in the last 32 of the Europa League. “Nothing’s really changed in terms of the group,” Fuchs continued. “We have to win at home to Basel - we would have played for the win anyway. It’s often been the case that we deliver when it matters most. We’ll also have the twelfth man behind us.”

'All we’ve got'


The Veltins Arena has already witnessed its fair share of ups and downs this season, with disappointing defeats to the likes of Chelsea FC and Borussia Dortmund a far cry from rousing wins over Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Bucuresti. The question is: which way will it go in front of the Knappen faithful on December 11?

Fuchs believes he has the answer. “The fans will drive us on,” he told the club’s website. “We’ll give it all we’ve got to go further in the Champions League. I think we’ll play a good game.” At this juncture, that appears to be the bare minimum.

Christopher Mayer-Lodge