“We can only apologise to everyone involved at the club,” said captain after the 5-0 defeat. Team-mate Roman Neustädter admitted he was “lost for words,” while Dennis Aogo spoke of a “collapse”.
Whichever way you look at it, Tuesday’s match at the Veltins Arena was certainly one to forget for the club. Schalke’s Champions League fate is now no longer in their own hands as they lie in third in the standings, two points behind second-placed Sporting Clube de Portugal. Roberto Di Matteo’s side need Sporting to lose away to Chelsea in a fortnight’s time and must win their own final fixture away to Slovenian side NK Maribor in order to go through.
“Personally I still believe very strongly that we’ll reach the next round,” Aogo told bundesliga.com after the final whistle. “We’ll give it everything we’ve got to beat Maribor and Chelsea will want to finish the group stage with a win in front of their own fans.” Midfield playmaker Max Meyer was equally convinced Schalke will be in the Round of 16 draw: “I know we’ve got the quality in the team and I’m certain we’ll go through. We’ll win in Maribor.”
Schalke have two Bundesliga fixtures to play in the meantime, starting with a home game against 1. FSV Mainz 05 on Saturday, before facing VfB Stuttgart away the following weekend. Meyer is hopeful history can repeat itself after a similarly chastening experience in Europe last season proved the catalyst to better things. “We lost 6-1 at home to Real Madrid last term,” said the 19-year-old. “After that we went on a really good run. That should give us hope now.”
Indeed, the feeling running throughout the squad in the immediate aftermath of the Chelsea defeat was the need to channel their frustration into the Mainz game. “Now we have to clear our heads and do much better against Mainz,” said Neustädter. “We have to show ourselves in a different light at the weekend,” agreed Aogo. “And if anyone can do that then it’s Schalke.”