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Berlin (AFP) - Schalke travel to Manchester City for Tuesday's Champions League last 16 return league with head coach Domenico Tedesco barely hanging onto his job and confidence at rock bottom.
City needed late goals from Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling to win the first leg 3-2 in Gelsenkirchen three weeks ago when the Germans shrugged off dreadful league form to produce a battling display.
However, Schalke's fortunes have nose-dived since, leaking 11 goals in three heavy defeats to leave them four points from the Bundesliga relegation places.
Tedesco, 33, has been told he has two games to prove himself.
Schalke's new sporting director Jochen Schneider says only good performances at City and home to third-placed RB Leipzig next Saturday can save Tedesco.
Man City have won their last nine games at the Etihad Stadium, but the Schalke squad are hoping for an unlikely away victory and want Tedesco to stay on.
"Of course we do - no one has ever said anything different," said striker Guido Burgstaller.
Despite playing well for 55 minutes against Werder Bremen on Friday, Schalke eventually lost 4-2 away with Swiss striker Breel Embolo scoring the visitors' goals.
"No points, no big improvement. Hard times are waiting for us," admitted Austrian Burgstaller glumly with one eye on Manchester.
"Things won't get easier, we have to be prepared for that."
- Skant self-belief -
Morale in the Schalke squad is so low after Friday's defeat that all the talk was on avoiding relegation - in their own backyard barely registering.
Defeat in Bremen came on the back of last weekend's 4-0 thumping at home to Fortuna Duesseldorf and a 3-0 defeat at Mainz - three losses against mediocre mid-table opposition.
"It's difficult when we aren't rewarded for good phases," said Tedesco after his 14th defeat in 25 league games this term.
To compound their problems, Schalke's playmaker Daniel Caligiuri misses the trip to Manchester and is expected to be sidelined for the next four weeks.
It was feared the 31-year-old versatile right winger had broken his leg in Bremen, but a scan revealed ligament damage.
It's all a far cry from last season when the Royal Blues finished second in the Bundesliga to qualify for the Champions League in Tedesco's first season.
Having managed to qualify from the group stages in Europe, they have been no higher than 11th in the Bundesliga this campaign.
TV pundit and former Germany international Thomas Berthold suspects the club's senior figures are weighing up their options for the head coach role.
"The question is, what do you have for an alternative?" said Berthold.
"The team lacks confidence, each player is looking for some form and the defensive stability is missing."