Why we should be thankful Schalke finished in fourth

Thomas Niedermueller

Schalke beat Freiburg to secure Germany's fourth and final Champions League spot. It's okay if you weren't pulling for the underdog to win.

When the final round of Bundesliga matches kicked simultaneously on Saturday, eyes were all over the table for how drastically things could change with every goal. Even though the title had been decided weeks ago, a spot in next season's Champions League was on the line in Freiburg im Breisgau where Freiburg were hosting Schalke. If Freiburg could repeat their performance from December in a 3-1 victory in Gelsenkirchen, they would be the fourth club from Germany in next season's Champions League. I was neutral in the matchup. As you know, I am a Bayern supporter. I'm not afraid to admit the fact that I was pulling for Schalke to win on Saturday.

You would think that every neutral fan in this matchup would be pulling for Freiburg to win the match and pull one over on Die Königsblauen. However, everyone was mindful of the future. While it would be fantastic to see a club like Freiburg in the Champions League next season (Well, they would enter into the Playoff Round.), it would not be good for Germany's coefficient. Yep, we're going there.

If the 2012-13 version of Freiburg were entering the competition next season, then we all would've been behind them beating Schalke and taking fourth. However, the side that's likely to enter European competition next year will be nothing like what we see today. Jan Rosenthal and Johannes Flum have already agreed to join Eintracht Frankfurt this summer. Max Kruse is departing to Borussia Mönchengladbach, and Daniel Caligiuri is taking his talents to Wolfsburg.

With four of their best players leaving the club in one summer, it's going to be some work for Christian Streich to rebuild his team. No matter how well Streich has done since taking over in December 2011 --- and he's done beyond an amazing job --- replacing that much quality in one window can be difficult for a club with limited funds. Can you imagine if we ended up with the following scenario in August:

"Welcome to the draw for the Playoff Round of the 2013-14 Champions League. The first team drawn out of the pot... AC Milan. Their opponents in the two-legged tied... SC Freiburg!"

Haha. It could be disastrous to throw next season's Freiburg side against a group as good as Milan. Schalke are far better suited to strengthen their side in the summer and compete in, not only the Bundesliga, but the Champions League as well.

You always have to remember that Germany's UEFA Coefficient is really important. Right now, their in third place behind Spain and England and just in front of Italy. While they're closer to passing England for second than falling behind Italy into fourth, there's no reason the nation shouldn't strive for the top place.

A rebuilt Freiburg squad can get their young players some European experience in next season's Europa League. Throwing them to the wolves in the Playoff Round of the Champions League would be an unfortunate situation that luckily we get to avoid.

With Kyriakos Papadopoulos likely on his way out of the team, Schalke are rumored to be bringing in Felipe Santana from rivals Borussia Dortmund. They secured the future of Julian Draxler, and now should focus on making Ibrahim Afellay's loan from Barcelona permanent. With a few more minor tweaks, they'll have a squad that should allow them to get into and out of the group stage of the Champions League next season.

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