Despite sitting in seventh place in the Bundesliga at the midway stage of the season, there are plenty of reasons for optimism for Schalke 04.
The Gelsenkirchen club have the core of a side capable of pushing on and qualifying for the Champions League once more, while a glamour tie against Real Madrid awaits Jens Keller’s men next month in the knockout rounds of Europe’s top tournament.
Despite superstar names such as Kevin-Prince Boateng, Julian Draxler and Benedikt Höwedes at the club, it appears that Schalke are only going to get stronger in the second half of the season. Here are three real reasons for optimism for the club’s fans.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s eagerly awaited return
Keller has revealed that the Netherlands international should return to first-team action by the end of January – in a massive boost for the side.
The former Ajax hitman has suffered debilitating injuries over the last 18 months, but has consistently shown that given a run of games he can be deadly in front of goal.
Huntelaar has the Bundesliga’s top goalscorer in 2011-12 before injuries started to take their toll, and will be motivated to shine once more with the World Cup on the horizon.
Jan Kirchhoff to add defensive options
Rated as one of the brightest prospects in German football, Kirchhoff agreed a loan move to Schalke from Bayern Munich at the turn of the year.
The former Germany under-21 central defender will remain in Gelsenkirchen for the next 18 months, where he has the chance to develop into a true star.
Despite suffering an ankle injury in training recently, having the former Mainz man in the squad improves a backline that on paper looks impressive, but have conceded too many goals.
It may well be a shrewd move by Bayern to allow Kirchhoff regular Bundesliga action elsewhere, but Schalke are set to thoroughly benefit in the meantime.
Sidney Sam deal confirmed
After months of speculation, Schalke have today confirmed that they have completed the signing of highly rated Bayer Leverkusen winger Sidney Sam.
The Germany international has been in devastating form for the BayArena outfit this term, and has added a goalscoring element to his place with seven strikes in the Bundesliga so far.
It is believed that the 25-year-old had an agreeable release clause in his Leverkusen contract, and as such Schalke are thought to have landed the star for cut price.
With Sam set to move to the Veltins-Arena in the summer on a four-year deal, Schalke will have another player of real quality in their attacking line-up.
Despite an up-and-down first half of the campaign for Schalke, it appears that the immediate and medium term future is looking decidedly bright in Gelsenkirchen.