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Schalke begin 2016 with an uncomfortable debate about Andre Breitenreiter future

Sunday's defeat to Werder Bremen was Schalke's seventh of the season. Many now question whether their coach is the right man for the job.

So far 2016 hasn't exactly gone to plan for Schalke. Despite a strong Europa League run and a pragmatic start to the January transfer window, the Royal Blues were forced to confirm they wouldn't be sacking their coach following a 3-1 defeat to Werder Bremen on Sunday night.

Despite many predicting a comfortable win for the Ruhr side – especially after taking the lead through a Joel Matip header within the opening five minutes – Bremen left the Veltins Arena with three goals and all three points in the opening fixture of the Ruckrunde.

“We are very satisfied with Andre (Breitenreiter). The team follows him 100 percent,” was the necessary vote of confidence given from General Manager Horst Heldt following reports from Sky Sports that a division had emerged between the manager and some of his key players.

“We lost because we didn't exploit the many opportunities we had,” insisted the club official. Schalke may have started the year with a stumble but as far as they were concerned it was the fault of the players, not their coach.

Similar support was offered to Breitenreiter from former Schalke manager Jens Keller, who told Sky that he was “flabbergasted” and had been taken by “surprise” at the manner in which the media and some players had turned on the Schalke coach.

He said: “Last year it was said that the team stands behind the coach and everything is wonderful. I always find it a pity that the players do not even look at themselves. Now the third coach is there within two years.”

Although Schalke started the Bundesliga season well with five wins in their opening seven league matches, Breitenreiter's side did see their form take a dive at the end of 2015 with just two wins in their last nine Bundesliga games of 2015.

Fans of the coach would argue that the poor run began with legitimately difficult fixtures. Away trips to Borussia Mönchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen and a home tie against Bayern Munich all came within the space of five weeks, as the side dropped from third to eighth in the Bundesliga table before a win over Hoffenheim in the final game of 2015 pulled them back up to fourth.

Sunday's clash was supposed to put such form behind the team, yet it instead continues that poor trend and may pile more pressure on the former Paderborn coach ahead of Saturday's clash with Darmstadt – who kicked off 2016 with a win in Hanover.

Should the Royal Blues pick up three points at the Merck-Stadion this weekend Schalke may return to some form of normality, yet should they fall short of expectations again then the stories of Breitenreiter's demise at the club will only continue.