Schalke struggling in Bundesliga after another loss

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              Duesseldorf's Dawid Kownacki, left, and Schalke's Daniel Caligiuri, right, challenge for the ball during the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Schalke 04 and Fortuna Duesseldorf in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, Saturday, March 2, 2019. (Guido Kirchner/dpa via AP)
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BERLIN (AP) — Despite finishing second last season, Schalke has been simply shocking this season.

The team from Gelsenkirchen is going through its worst spell since it was relegated from the Bundesliga in 1982-83. And on Saturday, things got weird after a 4-0 loss to Fortuna Duesseldorf at home.

The coach asked fans for forgiveness and the team captain was forced to take off his armband by a couple of angry “ultra” supporters who made their way onto the field.

“We’re just small players in comparison to this big club,” Schalke captain Benjamin Stambouli said with tears in his eyes.

It was Schalke’s 13th loss in 24 league games. And that it came against a promoted team after a 3-0 loss to Mainz the week before added to the sense of anger among fans, who taunted their own team.

Schalke striker Guido Burgstaller defended the fans’ confrontation with Stambouli.

“The fans gave us a piece of their mind, it’s totally acceptable. We deserved it,” Burgstaller said. “We hope we can be united with our fans again as quickly as possible.”

Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco, who held his hands together to ask for forgiveness as he approached fans after the game, is going through his toughest days at the club, though he ruled out quitting amid fears the team could be dragged into a relegation battle with Augsburg and Stuttgart.

Both of those teams won over the weekend, leaving Schalke only four points above the bottom three with 10 games remaining.

Managing director Christian Heidel, who had been responsible for some disappointing transfer dealings, resigned after the loss in Mainz last week and there could be more exits to follow.

German daily Bild reported that Schalke was considering emergency measures and that management was discussing the possibility of the more experienced Mike Bueskens or Huub Stevens returning to replace the 33-year-old Tedesco.

According to Bild, Schalke sporting director Jochen Schneider — who was appointed after Heidel’s resignation — met with Tedesco at the team hotel in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday. There was no indication given of any outcome.

Schalke supervisory board chairman Clemens Toennies, himself under pressure following Heidel’s resignation, said Schneider would be officially presented by the club on Tuesday, but that he himself would not “fire or hire a coach right now.”

The criticism is growing louder.

Former Schalke coach Peter Neururer told news agency dpa that the club’s demise was “the biggest disappointment in the Bundesliga in 20 years.”

Neururer said he wouldn’t call for Tedesco to go “because I can only observe his work from outside, but the team is totally over-coached. It’s not in a position to sort things out because everything has to be done to a formula.”

Tedesco was initially hailed for his tactical sense as he guided Schalke to second place in his debut season. He stabilized the defense and got the team to work hard to grind out results without setting pulses racing with free-flowing soccer.

But there are fears he may have damaged the team in an attempt to stamp his authority as a young coach.

Tedesco ousted former captain Benedikt Hoewedes upon his arrival. This season he demoted replacement Ralf Faehrmann. Hoewedes was a defender, Faehrmann a goalkeeper. The defense has looked anything but stable this season, with Schalke conceding 13 goals in its last five games in all competitions.

Neururer paid tribute to Tedesco for approaching the fans after losing to Duesseldorf, but said it sounded from what he said that he doesn’t know what he should do anymore.

“The coach can’t have any experience so he has to get help from club leadership or management,” Neururer said. “Instead there are so many building sites and own-goals being scored.”