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Schalke hit by injuries for Krasnodar test

Schalke take their severely depleted attack into their fourth group-stage match in the Europa League on Thursday with a chance to clinch a berth in the last 32.

Schalke coach Markus Weinzierl will be wondering where the goals are going to come from as he prepares his side to host Russia's Krasnodar on Thursday.

The Royal Blues were already missing strikers Breel Embolo and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar due to injury, when playmaker Max Meyer suffered torn ligaments in his right ankle during Saturday's Ruhr derby. Now the availability of striker Franco Di Santo is in doubt after he suffered a pulled stomach muscle. 

"It is brutal, but despite this, we still have a lot of quality in our attacking game," midfielder Johannes Geis said after learning of the latest injury to hit the club.

Sporting director Christian Heidel insisted that there would be no excuses on Thursday, saying this was an opportunity for others to shine. 

The most likely candidate for the role of central striker would appear to be Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who has played there in the past. 

"I haven't played in this position in quite a while," Choupo-Moting told television broadcaster Sky Sport News on Wednesday. "However, I know that I can do well at it."

Schalke are top of Group I on a maximum nine points as they go into their match against Krasnodar, who are in second with six points - meaning a win would see the hosts through to the last 32.

The Gelsenkirchen club beat Krasnodar 1-0 away last month and enter their fourth group-stage match in much-improved form, after having gotten their domestic season off to a rough start as both Weinzierl and Heidel settled in to their new jobs.  

They have now gone unbeaten in seven competitive matches and clinching a spot in the next round would ease the pressure a bit and allow them to focus more on climbing up the Bundesliga table, where they are in 12th spot. 

"Clearly the Bundesliga is the main thing we are concerned about. But I would be really, really pleased to win this one, then we will have done our job on the international stage. We will be going for a win," Weinzierl told the pregame press conference on Wednesday. 

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