Organisation and attack key for Di Matteo in first Schalke game
Former Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo finally takes charge of his first game as Schalke boss, following the international break, against Hertha Berlin, who are one place behind his new side in the Bundesliga.
The Swiss-born Italian replaces Jens Keller, who led the club to third last season, following a poor start to the campaign, which sees them down in 11th on eight points after seven games.
Di Matteo’s side go into this game as odds-on 8/11 favourites with Coral to win, having beaten the capital club in each of their last six meetings. The previous two scorelines finished 2-0, so back the Miners, as Schalke are nicknamed, to carve out another victory of that margin at 8/1.
The Gelsenkirchen club (100/1 chances to lift the Bundesliga) have also kept a clean sheet against Hertha in seven of their last eight matches, so back them at 13/8 not to concede again and 11/5 to win to nil.
It is not Schalke’s defence, though, that immediately impressed Di Matteo, who won the Champions League and FA Cup during his short spell at Stamford Bridge.
Prior to the upcoming Bundesliga battle, the 44-year-old said: “I watched some of Schalke’s matches and got some ideas. I think the attacking potential of the team is very big, but we have to improve our organisation.
“As I said, it’s always about the team. The players have to work for the team. In the squad there are some key players who have to help the team and give all their quality to the team and not just to themselves as an individual.”
So better organisation and the use of the talent in attack he has on offer is the key. Di Matteo has the likes of Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (who has hit four goals against Hertha), Cameroonian Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Julian Draxler, who has been heavily linked with a Premier League move, on offer. They are 5/6, 5/4 and 11/4 respectively in the anytime scorer markets.
Former Portsmouth and Spurs attacker Kevin-Prince Boateng (2/1), meanwhile, and young exciting German forward Max Meyer (7/4) can also be called upon.
It sees that Di Matteo has made an instant impact since taking training with those players left during the international break, with first choice keeper Ralf Fahrmann saying: “He’s doing a really good job. We get a lot done in training so we don’t have the opportunity to think about what’s happened.
“Roberto Di Matteo is an authority figure who knows exactly what he wants. He communicates with the players and tells everyone what he expects from them. He places a lot of focus on tactics and technique. He’s trying to implement this into our game.”
On his ambitions and experience, Di Matteo added: “I know the demands are high here, but I’ve been in the football business for 24 years.
“I’ve worked in Switzerland, Italy, England and now in Germany and I think I’ve got the experience needed to deal with it. The club wants to qualify for the Champions League automatically, and that is my aim too.”
He also recently said: “The boys aren’t happy with our amount of points so far. We want to move up the table as quickly as possible.”
For the away side, meanwhile, look out for other former Premier League talent in Salomon Kalou (ex-Chelsea) and Johnny Heitinga (Everton). They can be backed at 2/1 and 7/1 respectively to net anytime.