Bayer Leverkusen chairman Wolfgang Holzhauser has given coach Robin Dutt a vote of confidence but has set him the target of a top-four finish this season.
After finishing runners-up to Borussia Dortmund last season, Leverkusen have struggled to live up to that achievement and they lie in sixth position at the turn of the year with a deficit of seven points to make up on fourth-placed Borussia Monchengbladbach between now and May.
Dutt, who replaced Jupp Heynckes as coach in the summer, has even had to endure calls for him to be sacked from frustrated fans who had set their sights on the title this season. However, Holzhauser says that the former Freiburg coach still enjoys the board's unreserved support.
"When I say that the coach is assured of his job, I don't mean that only in the mid-term but also long-term," he told sport1.de. "Of course we know that questions are always going to be asked of the coach when the success is not quite how you would imagine it, but we made a good choice with Robin Dutt
"We knew that the year after Jupp Heynckes would be a tough one. Let's not also forget that we have had a lot of injury misfortune.
"All things considered, we are satisfied with Robin Dutt's work, even if we don't have the amount of points that we had imagined at this stage of the season, but we expect to make up for that in the second half of the season."
Holzhauser has therefore laid down the gauntlet to Dutt to make up the lost ground and lead the club back into Europe's top club competition next season.
"That is nothing new," he said. "Our aim from the beginning, after finishing fourth two seasons ago and second last season, is that we consolidate our position and reach the Champions League. Nothing has changed in this. The Champions League is the aim and you have got to set targets."