Veltins Arena, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
Saturday, 21 March 2015, 1830 UTC
Matchday 26 on Saturday will bring two Bundesliga aces against each other after heroic performances in the Champions League mid-week. Both sides will be eager to return to Europea s elite competition after facing harsh elimination in the round of 16 at the hands of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. While the two Spanish sides face each other in the quarterfinals of Champions League at the expense of these two German sides, the race for next yeara s qualification spots is still very much on in the Bundesliga. Roberto DiMatteoa s men trail Leverkusen by 3 points and look to draw level on points with a win. Meanwhile, Roger Schmidta s men will have many legs recovering from that energy-sapping tie at the Vicente Calderon against Atletico. As pros and cons are equally balanced between the two big clubs, let’s look at the team news and form of both sides.
Team News and tactics
Royal Blues are three points behind Roger Schmidta s men and a win will not alter their fifth position in the table since the Werkself enjoy a bigger goal difference. Schalkea s form has not been that great compared to that of their rivals but a sensational victory at the Bernabeu recently has certainly lifted their spirits and saw them earn a draw against Hertha Berlin last week. Captain Benedikt Howedes is suspended for the tie after earning his fifth yellow card of the season against Hertha. Returning stars Julian Draxler, Jefferson Farfan are still short of match fitness according to head coach DiMatteo. However, there are other reasons for Schalke to fancy their chances on Saturday as another returning player, Sead Kolasinac may start in place of Howedes. Leverkusena s poor record at the Veltins Arena in the past few years is also a positive factor for the Blues. Teenager Timon Wellenreuther is likely to keep his place in between the sticks ahead of Ralf Fahrmann.
Possible Line-up (3-5-2): Wellenreuther; Ayhan, Nastastic, Kolasinac; Uchida, Hoger, Neustadter, Sane, Fuchs; Huntelaar, Boateng
The Werkself are likely to be in the same position even if they stay winless at the Veltins Arena for the fourth time in a row in four years. Roger Schmidta s men clearly have less time to recover after the crushing loss to Diego Simeonea s Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. Nevertheless, Leverkusen have momentum in the League with them as they have managed 10 points from the last 5 Bundesliga fixtures where Schalke have managed just five points. Josip Drmic is in good touch after scoring a double against Stuttgart last week. Bernd Leno who had kept 5 clean sheets prior to the loss against Atletico will be another key man for the visiting side.
Schmidt has no major injury worries but he should be careful against fielding the same side that featured in the game against Atletico to avoid any potential injuries.
Players to watch out for
The Schalke youth graduate grabbed eyeballs as he debuted in the Champions League with a stunning strike against Real Madrid. The 19-year old winger again scored in the 2-2 draw against Hertha Berlin last week. Nimble footed, pacey and a decent scoring range make the Germany U20 international the player to watch out for Schalke. Since Schalke have a good home record against Leverkusen, young Sane could once again prove important to the first team.
The Swiss forward was in good flow against Stuttgart last week in as he scored a brace. The absence of Schalkea s key man, Benedikt Howedes could play out in the strikera s advantage. With the pace of Son and Bellarabi and Calhonoglua s creativity to assist him, Drmic might create problems for Schalkea s back line. Roberto DiMatteoa s pragmatic tactics as well as the away record to Schalke should make the battle with Leverkusena s forward-line more interesting.
Schalke 2-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Both the teams are equally matched going into the Saturday’s game. Morever, the past few fixtures between these two teams have mostly been dealt in two goals on the winning side or a tight draw with both of them scoring two goals each. The absence of Benedikt Howedes is a bit of set back for Schalke’s defence but the support of home fans and four years of undefeated home record will give them a fair chance. Both teams are on the back of commendable performances in the Champions League which should make it an interesting contest.
Blast From The Past:
Watch Hakan Calhanoglu’s stunning free kick in October against Schalke in late October.