Di Matteo faces Wolfsburg test

The Italian has so far won all three of his games at home, but his side’s form has been quite the opposite away from the Arena AufSchalke with three defeats out of three.

As a result, the Gelsenkirchen club remain three points behind the top six and five off the top four and a place in the Champions League next season, while they trail Wolfsburg by nine points.

“I don’t know if there’s a favourite for this game, but for sure we’re the home team and we’ve got to take the initiative,” said Di Matteo, who insists he is “totally focused” on Saturday’s game and not the reunion with former club Chelsea in the Champions League next week.

“The Arena AufSchalke has an amazing atmosphere and I’m positively surprised by practically everything, although I would have preferred a few more points.”

Defeat would leave Schalke in no better state than they were when Di Matteo took charge, although he appealed back then for patience.

He has renewed that appeal, saying he needs time to get the side playing how he wants them to be and he can only see himself getting that time during the winter break.

“Hopefully then we will have most of our long-term injured players back,” he added.

By then, the state of the affairs in the Bundesliga will be a lot clearer too with the sight of Schalke and Borussia Dortmund in the bottom half of the table something of an anomaly.

Dortmund will be keen to build on their win over Borussia Monchengladbach last time out when they head to Paderborn this weekend, otherwise they may once again drop into the bottom three.

Gladbach, meanwhile, will be desperate to bounce back from that, their very first defeat of the season in all competitions, when they play host to Thomas Schaaf’s Eintracht Frankfurt.

A seven-point deficit has already grown on league leaders Bayern Munich, who host faltering Hoffenheim, while the gap to sixth-placed Bayer Leverkusen has been cut to just three points with Roger Schmidt’s men in action at Hannover this Saturday.

The focus shifts to the bottom of the table on Sunday when Hamburg and Werder Bremen meet in a northern Germany derby with both sides currently residing inside the bottom three before bottom-placed Stuttgart host Augsburg.

Elsewhere, with the Carnival season now under way, Germany’s two Carnival strongholds Mainz and Cologne both have home games against Freiburg and Hertha Berlin respectively.