Though they haven't won a German Championship title since 1958, FC Schalke 04 have built a fairly solid reputation for always landing in the upper echelons of the league standings table. In 2001, 2005, 2007, and 2010, they ended their seasons as Bundesliga runner-up. In 2012 and 2014, they finished third. In 2013, they ended up fourth.

Still, despite Schalke 04's recent solid track record for qualifying for the Champions League, the football club have also hit a few bumps along the way that have made them harder to bet on than some other teams in the German top-flight. In 2011, for instance, the Miners fell from second place to 14th in the space of a single season. And last year, the soccer team missed out on the Champions League, finishing sixth.

The Underdogs

Unfortunately, it looks like the 2015 2016 season could mark Schalke's second missed Champions League chance in a row. Halfway through the Bundesliga campaign and heading into the league's lengthy winter break, the Miners are sitting sixth with a record of eight wins, three draws, and six losses.

The good news is that, while they aren't in the top three or anything, Schalke 04 aren't in such a bad spot going into 2016. If they replicate their first 17 fixtures in the second half of the season, they'll end the year with 16 wins, six draws, and 12 losses. That record would put the Miners above where they ended the 2014 2015 season, with 13 wins, nine draws, and 12 losses.

Another bit of silver lining is that, while the Miners are outside of Champions League qualification range right now, they could easily get back into the running with just a win or two. Bayer Leverkusen are in fifth place, with the same point tally as Schalke (27) but a better goal difference (+5, versus Schalke's +0). Borussia Monchengladbach are only two points up at fourth while Hertha Berlin are currently sitting third with 32 points. None of those teams are out of range for the Miners to catch (and perhaps, beat) during the second half of the 2015 2016 campaign.

If there's bad news for these particular underdogs, it's that Schalke 04 lost a lot of their momentum throughout the fall. Of their first seven Bundesliga fixtures, the Miners won five of them, carving out a solid spot in third place. The next seven weeks of play only saw the football club picking up a single win, though, with an October 17th home match against Hertha Berlin. October and November also saw two draws and four losses, though, dropping Schalke as far as eighth place on the table.

A Much-Needed Rest

If Schalke 04 are going to find their way back into Champions League range in 2016, they are going to have to correct whatever went wrong in October and November. Things have picked up slightly for the Miners recently: the soccer squad won two of their three December games, snagging a key 1-0 victory against Hoffenheim in their last match of the year. However, they'll need something akin to their four-game winning streak from September to contend with the likes of Hertha Berlin, Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Monchengladbach, and Wolfsburg for a spot in the top three.

Right now, Schalke 04's biggest problem is offense. The club's top scorer, Klass-Jan Huntelaar, has only scored five goals in domestic play this season. Overall, the Miners have managed 23 goals in 17 matches, which, while not bad, puts them lower than most of the other teams in the top 10. Furthermore, the last time Schalke 04 landed a top-three slot-in the 2013 2014 season-they did so with 63 goals for the full season. Right now, they're on track to hit 46 goals for the full season-far below where they need to be to contend.

Could the Miners pick up some new talent in the January transfer window to add some extra punch to their offense? Or does the football club merely need some time off to get back to the solid level of play we saw at the beginning of the season? Pick up a Schalke shirt from Soccer Box to show your support for the team.