Istanbul: Schalke coach Jens Keller could hardly face a more daunting Champions League debut when his team visit Galatasaray for the first leg of the last 16 on Wednesday.
Keller was supposed to halt Schalke’s midseason slump, but the interim coach has managed only one win from six games across all competitions since taking over from the dismissed Huub Stevens in December.
Altogether, Schalke have only one win from 12 matches, and their unbeaten record in the Champions League this season face a sombre test against a Galatasaray bolstered by the recent signings of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder.
Drogba, who won the competition with Chelsea last year, scored a spectacular header five minutes into his debut at Galatasaray on Friday, in a move instigated by Sneijder, a 2010 winner with Inter Milan. “Both of them have quickly merged and integrated with the team,” Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim said.
The Turkish champions recovered from a poor start in the Champions League with three straight wins to finish second behind Manchester United in Group H.
Galatasaray lead the Turkish league by six points with five wins from its last eight games, in sharp contrast to Schalke, which has tumbled from second to ninth in the Bundesliga.
The Gelsenkirchen-based side had Michel Bastos to thank for salvaging a 2-2 draw at Mainz on Saturday, when the Brazilian scored twice for three goals in as many games since his recent transfer from Lyon. “That was important,” Bastos said.
His late goal provided breathing space for Keller, whose melancholy demeanor has not instilled confidence, and who spoke before the game of “a curse” affecting his side.
Keller had to do without the injured Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Atsuto Uchida, Lars Unnerstall, Ibrahim Afellay, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Ciprian Marica and Christoph Moritz in Mainz.