BERLIN (Reuters) - Domenico Tedesco’s second season in charge of Schalke 04 has got off to a disastrous start and with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich visiting on Saturday, the exit door could soon be opening for the 33-year-old coach.
Tedesco was a surprise choice when he was appointed last season, arriving with limited coaching experience in the second division and no professional playing career prior to that, leaving Schalke fans unsure of what to expect.
He made an instant impact, however, steering them to second place and a return to the Champions League after a three-year absence, also winning over fans when the team rallied from 4-0 down against arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund to draw 4-4.
The comeback earned Tedesco a sensational man-of-the-match award but that already feels like a lifetime ago after Schalke lost their first three Bundesliga games to sit bottom of the standings on zero points alongside Bayer Leverkusen.
The Royal Blues’ Champions League return proved a marginal improvement with a 1-1 draw at home to Porto on Tuesday but Tedesco knows they need to significantly raise their game if they are to replicate last season’s exemplary run.
“The game against Porto was a crucial step in the right direction,” Tedesco said. “It was a positive signal. It was important to see that kind of mentality and attitude from my players.”
Nothing would speed up the process of reviving their fortunes more than a win over the Bavarians, who top the standings on nine points but have injuries to Kingsley Coman, Corentin Tolisso, Thiago Alcantara and Rafinha.
However, Niko Kovac has been boosted by the surprise resurgence of one player after Portuguese prospect Renato Sanches finally rediscovered his form in Bayern’s 2-0 Champions League win over Benfica on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old midfielder joined Bayern two years ago but after a fruitless first season was loaned out to Swansea City.
His goal-scoring performance on Wednesday, however, put him in contention for a starting spot on Saturday, with Thiago still doubtful with a toe injury.
“What we wanted to do is start strong in the Bundesliga and in the Champions League and we have succeeded in doing that,” Kovac said. “Now we have to stay focused because we know we are the ones being hunted.”
Borussia Dortmund, in second place on seven points, travel to fellow Champions League side Hoffenheim, who have lost two of their opening three games of the season.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by John O'Brien