Bundesliga: Schalke can still salvage sorry season | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 31.03.2019
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Bundesliga: Schalke can still salvage sorry season

Schalke won in the Bundesliga for the first time since January, giving them the edge in a relegation battle they never expected to be in. Progression in the cup and victory over BVB could help salvage a poor campaign.

As the Bundesliga season enters the final furlong, three objectives remain for Schalke to salvage a semblance of respectability from what has been a disastrous campaign.

First and foremost - and it still feels like an unbelievable thing to be writing about last season's Bundesliga runners-up – the Royal Blues must avoid relegation. They took a significant step towards achieving that goal on Sunday, winning for the first time since January away at struggling Hannover to establish a six-point cushion between them and the relegation play-off place.

But while the 1-0 scoreline made pleasant reading for Huub Stevens – his 100th Bundesliga win in charge of the Royal Blues – the Dutchman was not deceived by his side's performance which was, once again, below par.

"We lacked fluency and we didn't take our chances to score a second goal," said the 65-year-old, who has returned to Gelsenkirchen until the end of the season. "And we have [goalkeeper] Alexander Nübel to thank that we kept a clean sheet."

In the second half especially, Hannover were the better team, which doesn't bode well for Schalke's next objective: Wednesday's German Cup quarterfinal against in-form Werder Bremen, who are unbeaten in ten.

Opinion: Schalke are a shambles

Fußball Bundesliga | 27. Spieltag |  Hannover 96 - Schalke 04 (picture-alliance/S. Pförtner)

Goalkeeper Alexander Nübel kept Hannover at bay

Of course, the argument can be turned on its head and Schalke fans – 10,000 of whom traveled to Hannover on Sunday - may feel that their first win since eliminating Düsseldorf in the previous round has come at precisely the right time. But whether a makeshift defense with Benjamin Stambouli filling in at right-back will be enough to stop Max Kruse, Milot Rashica, Maximilian Eggestein and co remains to be seen.

Progression to a second consecutive cup semifinal wouldn't only give Schalke another shot at a trophy they last won in 2011, the club's last major honor, it would also give them some much needed momentum as they face a tough run of fixtures in the build-up to objective number three: the Revierderby.

Schalke's last visit to Dortmund was historic, but how many of those fans who deliriously celebrated their team's comeback from 4-0 downwould trade that experience for a chance to stop Borussia Dortmund winning the league?

It says a lot about the contrasting current fortunes of both Ruhr rivals that Schalke's season should come down to spoiling Dortmund's party. But there are tough tests to come before that as both Eintracht Frankfurt and Hoffenheim visit the Veltins Arena, games in which a number of players need to prove themselves before what is likely to be another big summer of comings and goings.

Bundesliga survival is hardly cause for celebration and no one in Gelsenkirchen should be praised for achieving the bare minimum. But add a derby win and a cup triumph to the mix, and Schalke's season may not look so disastrous after all.

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