BERLIN Champions League contenders Bayer Leverkusen sacked coach Roger Schmidt on Sunday, a day after they suffered a 6-2 demolition by Borussia Dortmund that left them 10th in the league and at risk of missing out on European football next season.
Leverkusen have managed just three wins in their last nine league games, having played an erratic Bundesliga campaign, and are 13 points away from third place that leads to the Champions League group stage.
They travel to Atletico Madrid on March 15 for the return leg of their Champions League round-of-16 match after a 4-2 loss at home in the first leg last month.
"Due to the current sporting development we reached the conclusion after a long analysis that parting ways may be painful but unavoidable for the further development of Leverkusen," said the club's managing director Michael Schade.
"I personally feel sorry for this decision because we have a lot to thank Roger Schmidt for. In his time we qualified three times for the Champions League group stage."
However, the club failed to progress past the round of 16 in the Champions League on each of those occasions and have so far played their worst Bundesliga season in 14 years.
Schmidt joined Leverkusen in 2014 from Red Bull Salzburg and had a contract until 2019.
Leverkusen, who also suffered an ignominious German Cup second-round exit at the hands of third-tier club Lotte this season, said a successor would be named as soon as possible.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Clare Fallon)