Although we’re not likely to see Thomas Reis jumping barbed wire fences on a motorbike, the ‘Great Escape’ is very much still on for a Schalke side, who looked dead and buried at the end if the Hinrunde. With three games left thus season, they have extricated themselves from the bottom three, although the Königsblauen are not out of the woods yet.
One late comeback win is impressive, two in a row is bordering on the unbelievable, a third win at the Allianz Arena this weekend would probably send the German football community into complete meltdown.
Dominik Drexler’s late winner two weeks ago at home to Werder Bremen stunned the Veltins Arena and handed Schalke a real lifeline in their quest for Bundesliga survival. The controversial 112th minute penalty dispatched by Marius Bülter last week at Mainz to give die Knappen a 3-2 win has given everyone associated with the club a real sense that they can achieve what seemed impossible a few months ago- Bundesliga survival.
The ‘Great Escape’ is still on for Schalke, who went into the winter break with just nine points from 15 games. Now with three games left they have thirty points and more importantly a two-point cushion over VfB Stuttgart and VfL Bochum. The problem this weekend is that Schalke face title-chasing Bayern at the Allianz Arena- a place they haven’t won at since 2009 and they haven’t even managed a single point since 2017. Their last two visits have resulted in 8-0 and 5-0 defeats, so the omens are not great going into the weekend.
But this is the time of the season where crazy results spring up with desperation playing a huge role as sides at the bottom somehow remember how to play and perform out of their skins. That is just what will be required of Schalke this weekend, who could ironically help their fierce local rivals Dortmund achieve their title dreams by taking points off a Bayern side far from running as a smooth machine right now.
“We have lots of respect for our opponents” trainer Thomas Reis explained this week at the pre-match press conference. “Bayern can be really horrible to play if they get going. They are always hungry for more goals, regardless of how many they have already scored. We will have to be prepared to suffer in Munich – I expect us to be chasing after the ball a lot.
“We will do all we can to get something from the game. We have a clear target in our minds. Our performances and results in recent weeks have put us in a good position. We want to build on that and give them a real game.
“We did really well in our recent games and earned the little bit of luck that we had. There will definitely be a few moments that won’t go to plan for us. We can’t let our heads drop in those situations and just have to keep on going.”
With Eintracht Frankfurt and RB Leipzig their final two opponents, if Schalke are to achieve the ‘Great Escape’ then they are going to have to do it the hard way.