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Dec, 10, 2012

Pressure on Schalke's Stevens increases

Schalke have moved to deny reports that manager Huub Stevens could be sacked during the winter break after the club suffered their fourth consecutive away defeat at the weekend.

• Blog: Augsburg fail to hold Bayern
• Bundesliga: Sunday review

The 3-1 defeat at Stuttgart on Saturday means that Schalke have only picked up five points in their last seven games and have not won a Bundesliga match since their 2-1 win over Werder Bremen on November 10.

Stevens is in the final year of his current contract and signs that the Dutch coach will leave the club after the season are getting stronger, despite their qualification for the knockout phase of the Champions League by topping their group above Arsenal.

Despite their record, Schalke currently sit fifth in the table and only trail third-placed Dortmund spot by two points. However, the Gelsenkirchen club only hold a two-point lead over Mainz who sit 11th in the standings.

Over the weekend, Mainz boss Thomas Tuchel was linked to the Schalke job, but speaking to Sky on Sunday he denied there was any truth to the rumours reported by Bild.

"We put Stevens in an awkward position, which I find dreadful and disrespectful," Tuchel said. "We don't have to open the Schalke issue. Why?

"We should ask those journalists where they picked it up. They will not give any answers. They sell facts that I have been an issue before, that I have declined before - that is a lie! That's wrong. If I would not comment on it, they would ask 'has he confirmed by saying nothing?'"

On Sunday Bild had linked Tuchel with the job, claiming Tuchel could take over the job in the summer. The paper also ruled out that Stevens could prolong his contract.

After a meeting between Schalke general manager Horst Heldt and Stevens on Sunday, Heldt said: "We have to win the upcoming games against Freiburg and against Mainz in the cup. Then we will sit down and see where we are and judge what the team has achieved."

Local paper WAZ believes that another reason the club will stick with Stevens is the perceived lack of decent coaches on the German market, but commented that dropping down the league table any further could change the scenario.

"On the other hand the romantic farewell scenario from Stevens is only possible as long as the club does not have to deal with dropping into the Europe League and the subsequent loss of several million," the paper wrote.

The trouble for Schalke started when rumours about the future of Germany international Lewis Holtby and Netherlands star Jan-Klaas Huntelaar got stronger during October. Huntelaar has been linked with a move to Arsenal among others in the winter and Holtby has also been linked with a move to the Gunners. Both players are in the last year of their contracts.

"It would be helpful if decisions were made," Schalke skipper Benedikt Howedes commented. And before the latest Huntelaar rumour linking the striker with a move €15 million move to Inter during the winter, Huntelaar argued that for his decision it was important to know what happens to the Schalke boss.

Meanwhile, Schalke's Greece international Kyriakos Papadopoulos will have to undergo surgery to his knee and will miss the remaining games of 2012, with an exact diagnosis expected after the surgery.

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