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Schalke sticking with Keller, Slomka on shaky Hannover ground

Seventh-placed Schalke have said they plan to stick with embattled coach Jens Keller in the second half of the Bundesliga season, while Hannover have issued news less likely to console their top tactician, Mirko Slomka.

Hannover's chairman Martin Kind told regional public broadcaster NDR's "Sportclub" that a coaching change during the winter break was a real possibility for the travel-sick side, yet to score a single point away from home this season. On Saturday, relegation candidates Freiburg bagged three crucial home points in a game Slomka might have hoped to win.

"I have asked [sporting director Dirk] Dufner to start listing names and profiling them," Kind said. "We have not yet held any talks, but we are of course also considering our options on the open market."

Mame Biriam Diouf buries his head in his jersey after Hanover's away defeat to Freiburg, 21.12.2013. (Photo via Patrick Seeger/dpa)

Marksman Mame Diouf, like his teammates, doesn't travel well

Kind said fans should not expect a final decision until "after Christmas or perhaps even in the New Year," also saying that Slomka's departure was by no means set in stone: "We will discuss the issue with open minds."

With Hannover 13th in the Bundesliga table, only four points clear of 16th, which threatens relegation into the second division, Kind acknowledged that the club's position was "difficult and critical."

Slomka took the reins at Hannover in January 2010, narrowly steering the side clear of relegation in that campaign. He then led the team to continental competition in back-to-back top-seven finishes, before a more mediocre campaign last season. More recently, Hannover have won just one of their last 10 competitive games, at home to fellow strugglers Frankfurt.

Keller reassured of Schalke spot

Champions League aspirants Schalke, who are not even on course for European qualification at half distance, said they would launch their recovery drive in January with coach Jens Keller in charge. After the club's annual winter analysis of the season to date, the Schalke announced its plans via Twitter.

Kevin-Prince Boateng (l.) and Julian Draxler sit, disappointed, after Schalke's surprise German Cup exit at the hands of Hoffenheim, 03.12.2013. (Photo via Revierfoto)

Draxler, Boateng and co. had surely hoped for more

"All the issues were discussed openly and constructively, and in the process areas where improvement is needed were also analyzed. Our coaching staff, with Jens Keller, will systematically address all of this at the start of our preparations for the second half of the season on January 3," Schalke wrote.

Club chairman Clemens Tönies told the DPA news agency on Monday that he expected "things to be put into practice immediately," describing the mid-season stock-taking as "calm, factual, but also constructively critical."

Despite a star-studded lineup including German internationals Julian Draxler and Benedikt Höwedes, and recent signing Kevin-Prince Boateng, Schalke have struggled to assert themselves this season, frequently displaying defensive frailty. In the Bundesliga on Saturday evening, Schalke could only draw 0-0 in Nuremberg, with the relegation-threatened side doing most of the running.

Securing progression into the knockout phases of the Champions League, in a winner-takes-all showdown with FC Basel, was surely a big boon for Keller and the club's finances.

msh/pfd (dpa, SID)

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