Love on the rocks as Wagner on the brink at Schalke

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Bundesliga - Schalke 04 v Werder Bremen - Veltins-Arena, Gelsenkirchen, Germany - May 30, 2020 Schalke 04 coach David Wagner wears a mask, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Bernd Thissen/Pool via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - It was supposed to be a marriage made in heaven when David Wagner took over at success-starved Schalke 04 at the start of the season but if their recent slump continues they could soon be heading for a messy divorce.

Wagner, a former Borussia Dortmund youth coach during Juergen Klopp's time there, was hailed as one of the game's brightest talents after guiding Huddersfield Town to the Premier League in 2017 and keeping them there the following season.

Arriving at Schalke, who are without a German championship title since 1958, the 48-year-old was tasked with stabilizing the side after years of roller-coaster campaigns.

He had a bright start, guiding the team to fourth place and ahead of Bayern Munich after the first 15 matches and letting the fans dream of a Champions League place.

But the honeymoon period was short.

When the league resumed in January, Schalke had lost their ability to score, notching five goals and just one win in 12 matches.

A two-month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic has done nothing to reverse their fortunes, with Schalke losing all four games and scoring just once since the May 16 restart.

The loss of Germany international Suat Serdar for the remainder of the season due to injury was a further blow.

Their free fall since the winter break has seen them tumble to 10th place, all but eliminating any chance of European competition next season.

Just 10 days ago, club bosses were moved to guarantee Wagner, whose contract runs out in 2022, would still be in charge next season but last week's 1-0 home loss to relegation-threatened Werder Bremen has ratcheted up the pressure.

"We have to start delivering other kinds of performances and we have to start immediately," Schalke sports director Jochen Schneider said this week. "We have to stop presenting ourselves in this victim role."

Wagner will be hoping the turnaround starts at Union Berlin on Sunday.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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