Schalke hold the unenviable honour of being bottom of the Bundesliga at Christmas. Can the Royal Blues flip the script and haul themselves to safety?
The story so far
Promoted at the first time of asking, Schalke experienced a rude start to life back in the top flight. The defending Bundesliga 2 champions picked up three points across their first five games (D3, L2), before beating then bottom club Bochum 3-1 on Matchday 6.
Something of a false dawn, Schalke lost their next five in all competitions, an alarming run that spelled the end for head coach Frank Kramer. Thomas Reis came in after losing the Bochum job and on the back of a further loss to Hertha Berlin, overseeing three defeats and a welcome victory over Mainz prior to the World Cup break.
Bottom after 15 matches, Schalke's nine-point return marks their worst ever start to a Bundesliga season. The Royal Blues have five points to make up on the relegation play-off spot, and an unsightly goal difference of -19 to chip away at.
Key player: Marius Bülter
Marius Bülter's scored three of Schalke's league-low 13 team goals so far this season. He's also hit three attempts against the woodwork - a joint division high. The fact two of his strikes have been penalties speak of a player well suited to the pressure-cooker challenge of a relegation battle.
If Schalke were expected to get the better of Bochum, given their local rivals' form at the time, victory over mid-table Mainz on Matchday 14 was somewhat without notice. Simon Terodde's 10th-minute goal did the damage for a team on an eight-match losing streak. Encouragingly, they kept the 05ers at arm's length for the rest of the contest and created further scoring chances of their own. Consider the performance their royal-blueprint for the Rückrunde.
Watch: Highlights of Schalke's hard-earned win over Mainz
One to watch: Sidi Sane
Sidi Sane made his Bundesliga debut in the 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich on Matchday 15. Leroy Sane's kid brother got 24 minutes under his belt - including six up against his decorated sibling - adding to his three goals in 11 games in Germany's fourth tier so far this term. Reis has hinted at further first-team opportunites for the 19-year-old winger, who could provide the creative spark Schalke need.
View from the camp
"Anything is still possible, it's down to us. We know we've got the quality to stay up. We'll do all we can to do so!" - Schalke defender Marcin Kaminski
- VfB Stuttgart (h), 25 February
- Bochum (a), 4 March
- Borussia Dortmund (h), 11 March
- Augsburg (a), 18 March
- Hertha Berlin (h), weekend beginning 14 April
Watch: The Bundesliga is back!
All 2022/23 season reviews:
Augsburg | Bayer Leverkusen | Bayern Munich | Bochum | Borussia Dortmund | Borussia Mönchengladbach | Cologne | Eintracht Frankfurt | Freiburg | Hertha Berlin | Hoffenheim | Mainz | RB Leipzig | Union Berlin | VfB Stuttgart | Werder Bremen | Wolfsburg
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