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Schalke to bank on youth against Bremen

19 February 2015, 12:31

Berlin - Schalke 04 have run out of strikers and goals at the worst possible time with in-form Werder Bremen, who have won five games in a row, awaiting in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

With Jefferson Farfan and Julian Draxler sidelined for months, Schalke suffered another blow on Wednesday with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar sustaining a leg injury in their 2-0 Champions League Round of 16 first leg loss to holders Real Madrid.

The Dutchman is not eligible against Bremen serving out his league suspension for a red card but the injury could now sideline him for longer.

Their other forward Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting has yet to replicate his goal-scoring exploits from earlier in the season while Sidney Sam has also not scored in his limited playing time so far this year.

Reflecting their current performance in attack, Schalke strikers have yet to notch a single goal in 2015, with all league goals so far coming from two midfielders and a defender.

Schalke have heaved their season back on track under Italian Di Matteo, cementing their back line and climbing up the table into fourth place on 34 points but their goal problems are a major concern as they chase a Champions League spot for next season.

Also read: Real ease past Schalke

Yet hope springs eternal for Di Matteo's team despite their defeat to Real, with a pair of youngsters providing a healthy dose of optimism.

The performances of 19-year-old striker Felix Platte, who came on for Huntelaar and almost grabbed an equaliser when he rattled Real's crossbar, and fellow teenager Timon Wellenreuther, youth team keeper, who also made his Champions League debut twice denying Ronaldo, will boost their confidence.

The pair had less than five league starts between them in their careers but still managed to keep their cool and put themselves in contention for more Bundesliga action this season.

"Timon Wellenreuther played a very good game and showed he can hold some balls extremely well," Di Matteo said. "Felix Platte showed no fear when he came on. It's a shame he hit the bar.

"I think if they continue like that they will have a good future here with us," the coach added.

Werder have made even bigger strides since coach Viktor Skripnik took over late last year and has guided them out of relegation with five straight league wins and into eighth spot.

The last time they had such a streak was in 2006 with six consecutive victories that saw them finish third at the end.

Leaders Bayern Munich, eight points clear on 52, should find little resistance when they travel to Bundesliga minnows Paderborn on Saturday, while second-placed VfL Wolfsburg host struggling Hertha Berlin on Sunday.

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- Reuters

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