Schalke will be looking to get back to winning ways and stop the Bayern Munich juggernaut as the two sides face each other in Bundesliga on Saturday.
Bayern Munich are on a roll in Bundesliga. The Bavarians have dropped just 3 points out of 30 in recent times, that too away from home in a closely contested 2-1 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach. Their offensive pedigree has returned under Jupp Heynckes and Bayern look like genuine European heavyweights now.
Schalke 04 have had a resurgence this season, with the club right up there at the top end of the table. However, the club have somewhat petered out after a string of disappointing results which has seen them register just 1 win in their last 5 Bundesliga games.
There is added context to the game, with Bayern set to receive a very cold response from Schalke fans, having agreed to sign Leon Goretzka on a free transfer in the summer. Domenico Tedesco would hope his side is inspired enough and the Bayern side are thrown off their game by the traveling Schalke fans on Saturday.
Bayern were comfortable winners in their earlier meeting this season, with a scoreline of 3-0 at Veltins-Arena. Ahead of their meeting on Saturday, we take a closer look at the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
Sven Ulreich has so far deputised well for Bayern in the absence of Manuel Neuer. This will be another test for the second-choice keeper at the Allianz Arena. Jerome Boateng is struggling with fitness issues, which all but confirms the pairing of Mats Hummels and Niklas Sule at the heart of the defence, with David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich on either side of the duo.
Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara have both returned to training. But, only the former is likely to start or feature at all against Schalke on Saturday. If Martinez is deemed fit enough to play, he should ideally be the defensive pivot in midfield.
James Rodriguez and Thomas Muller should start in front of Javi Martinez, with the trio of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Robert Lewandowski upfront.
Bayern have returned to their total footballing philosophy under Jupp Heynckes and the eye-appeasing football is likely to be on display on Saturday as well, with the only difference being Heynckes’ preference to not start building from the goalkeeper and instead leaving the build-up play to the more creative outfield players.
The Bavarians do field a high pressing line but are likely to deploy a deep backline against Schalke in order to counter the threat of wing-oriented attacks and long balls.
Probable Lineup (4-1-2-3): Ulreich; Kimmich, Sule, Hummels, Alaba; Tolisso; Muller, Rodriguez; Robben, Lewandowski, Ribery
Matija Nastasic misses out due to suspension and the player should be replaced by Benjamin Stambouli in the starting lineup. Pablo Insua and Weston McKennie remain sidelined with their respective injuries.
All eyes though, will be on Leon Goretzka and Domenico Tedesco’s decision to start the midfielder, who has been jeered by his own fans for opting to join Bayern Munich on a free transfer at the end of the season.
In Goretzka’s stead, we could see Nabil Bentaleb start in midfield alongside Max Meyer, with Amine Harit and Yevhen Konoplyanka likely to sit back behind the main striker and be the creative outlet in attack. Guido Burgstaller is likely to start, but Tedesco could opt for the more mobile Marko Pjaca in his stead.
Schalke are likely to rely on the pace and industry of Harit and Konoplyanka to push through the Bayern defence.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Fahrmann; Stambouli, Naldo, Kehrer; Caliguiri, Meyer, Bentaleb, Oczipka; Harit, Konoplyanka; Burgstaller
1. Free Scorers – Bayern Munich have so far scored in all of their home matches in Bundesliga this season, and in 20 of a total 21 league matches so far.
2. Fiery Fixture – There has been a red card in 3 of the last five meetings between the two sides at the Allianz Arena.
3. Sulking Schalke – After a brilliant start to their campaign, Schalke have managed just 3 wins in their last 10 Bundesliga fixtures.
4. Aggressive visitors – Schalke are one of the most aggressive sides in Bundesliga, with a record of 44 sanctions so far being given to their players – 43 yellow cards and 1 red card.
5. Prolific Pole – Robert Lewandowski has 4 goals and an assist in his last five Bundesliga matches, and a total of 18 goals so far in the league.
Player to Watch
Meyer is the other one in line to exit the club, with the player yet to sign an extension at Schalke. However, a driven performance here could see Schalke loosen the purse strings and offer him an irrefutable contract. Also, Meyer will hope to show he can become the focal point in midfield for Schalke once Goretzka does leave at the end of the season.
Bayern Munich 2-2 Schalke 04
Despite Schalke’s disappointing record in the last five Bundesliga games, we expect them to roar on the pitch on Saturday. Bayern Munich will definitely feel the pressure of the away fans’ jeering and that is likely to affect their play.
However, the professionals that Bayern players are, we expect them to bounce back and become more and more comfortable as the game wears. A draw should be on the cards, with both the teams managing to get on the scoresheet.