Life in Bundesliga 2 has been anything but plain sailing for Schalke so far this season, but in Simon Terodde and Thomas Ouwejan the Royal Blues have two standout players spearheading their push for promotion back to the top flight.
The story so far
Following the team’s relegation from the Bundesliga at the end of 2020/21 there was a summer of personnel upheaval in Gelsenkirchen as head coach Dimitrios Grammozis began to put together a side aiming to bounce straight back up. New signing Terodde was a major coup and he repaid the club’s faith in him with 11 goals in the first nine games to keep things ticking over amid mixed results.
A run of four straight wins between Matchdays 8 and 11 gave a glimpse of what Schalke are capable of this term, but Grammozis’s charges need to improve in crunch matches against the top teams if they are to return to the promised land of the Bundesliga: of the teams currently in the top seven, Schalke have only beaten Nuremberg, suffering defeats by St. Pauli, Darmstadt, Hamburg and Heidenheim, while drawing with Bremen.
Terodde is not known as ‘Mr. Bundesliga 2’ for nothing. He has won the second-tier title twice – with VfB Stuttgart in 2016/17 and Cologne in 2018/19 - been the division’s top scorer on three occasions (2015/16, 2016/17 and 2018/19), and this season became the league’s outright record scorer when he registered his 154th goal.
The 33-year-old is vital to Schalke’s promotion push, and his 12 goals (alongside two assists) so far this term have him well on track to reach the total of 24 he has managed in each of his last four Bundesliga 2 seasons. Terodde missed Schalke’s last four games prior to the winter break with injury, so getting him back to form and fitness will be Grammozis’s main priority.
Watch: All of Terodde's Bundesliga 2 goals this season
Best game so far
Going into their Matchday 15 meeting with Sandhausen, Schalke had taken just one point from their previous three league assignments to slip down to seventh in the standings. Another poor result could have had a serious impact on morale and left the team questioning their ability to push for promotion, but a barnstorming display at the Veltins-Arena changed all that.
After a goalless first half, the second period began badly for the Royal Blues when Marcel Ritzmaier put Sandhausen ahead. However, they soon rallied and strikes from Ouwejan, Marius Bülter (two), Rodrigo Zalazar and an own goal gave Schalke all three points and kept them in the hunt at the top.
Watch: Schalke 5-2 Sandhausen - highlights
One to watch
Ouwejan only joined Schalke from Udinese in the summer, but the Dutch left-back has hit the ground running in Gelsenkirchen. Solid in terms of positioning and his defensive duties, it is in opposition territory that the 25-year-old really shines.
His pinpoint, teasing crosses from the left have provided assists for seven goals already this season, while he has also scored three himself, making the Royal Blues’ No.2 the most dangerous defender in the division.
The view from inside the camp
“The promotion race is crazy this year. You can be sure it’ll go down to the wire. We want to be involved in that and if we perform like we did against Hamburg [on Matchday 18] we will be involved.” – Schalke goalkeeper Martin Fraisl
Heidenheim (h) – Matchday 29
Darmstadt (a) – Matchday 30
St. Pauli (h) – Matchday 33
Having done well against teams in mid-table and near the bottom of the standings so far, Schalke will be keen to start 2022 with six points from their opening games against Holstein Kiel and Aue. They’ve struggled against fellow top-six sides though, so a tricky run of fixtures against fellow promotion candidates near the end of the campaign is likely to make or break their season.
Bielefeld vs. Hamburg: team news
Masaya Okugawa and Bielefeld are bidding for a first win of the new season when they host Robert Glatzel and Hamburg.
Kimmich, Nkunku, Mane and Haller on Ballon d'Or shortlist
The Bundesliga quartet are among the candidates for the award, while several more of the league's stars are in the running for separate honours.
Leipzig vs. Cologne: team news
Germany striker Timo Werner is back in the Bundesliga and will be looking to outshine Sargis Adamyan on Saturday.