Schalke face an “all or nothing” battle to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League as they take on PAOK Salonika in a play-off second leg in Greece.
With the tie poised at 1-1 after the first leg at the Schalke Arena, the Bundesliga side need to score at least once in a game that will be played behind closed doors following a UEFA ruling from 2012, when PAOK and Rapid Vienna fans clashed in an Europa League qualifier.
Schalke are under pressure after a disappointing start in the Bundesliga has brought them only one point from three games, and midfielder Julian Draxler said: “It is all or nothing.”
His words were echoed by US international midfielder Jermaine Jones, who told Sport Bild: “I will give it my all for the Champions League. I don’t fancy losing in the play-offs like in 2008 [when Schalke were defeated by Atletico Madrid].”
Jones said he was unhappy with the pressure being put on Schalke after their start, adding: “At Schalke, everything is bad-mouthed quicker than at other clubs. You instantly get the impression that everything stinks. That is despite the club constantly playing in Europe in the past years -- that’s madness.
"We are allowed no time to grow as a team. We are under permanent fire from all sides. There’s always something going on at Schalke, and you can’t have success like that.”
Before the start of the season, Jones had said Schalke should think in terms of winning the title, while general manager Horst Heldt said his club would make up the gap to local rivals Borussia Dortmund.
“We have every chance of getting there,” Jones said. “But we need time and must remain calm.”
Winning qualification for the Champions League group stage will be important to winning that time, and coach Jens Keller told the Schalke website: “We have to stay focused throughout. We started the season with the aim of testing ourselves against the best teams in Europe. We now have the chance -- and we have to take it."