This Saturday’s topspiel will see German champions Bayern Munich going head to head against last season’s runner-up FC Schalke at the Veltins Arena.

FC Schalke will have nothing to lose as they host German champions Bayern Munich at the Veltins Arena, in what will be regarded as the topspiel of the matchday four of 2018/19 Bundesliga campaign.

Though Schalke are often deemed as one of the powerhouses of German football, the stakes will be completely different this time around, as the Royal Blues will be looking for their first point of this new season. Indeed, the Ruhrpott giants are one of only two clubs yet to register a single point thus far and falling against Bayern could spell further trouble for Domenico Tedesco and his men.

Bayern, on the other hand, will be looking to maintain their incredible start to the season, having won all of their five competitive matches so far. The Bavarians are coming on the back of a convincing 2-0 win over SL Benfica in midweek and a win this weekend could further solidify their position at the top of the table. However, playing against Schalke at their home turf is always a tricky challenge.

And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides, before their fascinating encounter on Saturday.

Team news & tactics

FC Schalke 04

Schalke head coach Domenico Tedesco will definitely retain his three at the back formation in order to have numerical superiority in midfield, which in turn, will allow them to become more fluid in their pressing system.

And that’s where new signing Suat Serdar might come in. The former Mainz superstar could operate as the extra midfielder at the base of Schalke’s 3-5-2 formation. Serdar will be partnered by Sebastian Rudy and Nabil Bentaleb. Rudy, in particular, will be eager to perform against his former club, after being deemed surplus to the requirements by Niko Kovac.

Ajax Amsterdam's defender Davinson Sanchez and Schalke's Austrian striker Guido Burgstaller vie for the ball during the UEFA Europa League 2nd-leg quarter-final football match between Schalke 04 and Ajax Amsterdam in Gelsenkirchen, western Germany on April 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / PATRIK STOLLARZ (Photo credit should read PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Burgstaller to lead the Schalke attack. (Photo by PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Alessandro Schopf and Daniel Caligiuri will retain their roles as wide midfielders. Both Schopf and Caligiuri are blessed with excellent tenacity and the pair could become a key factor, should Schalke manage to execute their plan against Bayern this weekend.

Naldo will be tasked with the responsibility of marshalling the defence. His experience coupled with his aerial prowess will be important as Schalke look to keep Bayern at bay. The veteran defender will be partnered by Matija Nastasic and Salif Sane with Ralf Fahrmann playing in goal.

And finally, the Schalke attack will be led by the duo of Mark Uth and Guido Burgstaller. Even though Breel Embolo makes a strong case for being included in the starting lineup, having scored the equalizer against Porto in midweek, we can expect Tedesco to utilize his pace and tenacity in the second half.

Probable lineup(3-5-2): Fahrmann; Sane, Naldo, Nastasic; Schopf, Rudy, Serdar, Bentaleb, Caligiuri; Burgstaller, Uth.

Bayern Munich

Bayern head coach Niko Kovac is expected to make a few changes to the side that won against Benfica in midweek with Niklas Sule, most of all, returning to central defence. The former TSG defender will be partnering Mats Hummels, thus, forming the backbone of the Bayern defence.

Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba will retain their place in the starting eleven as the fullbacks. Kimmich had a hard time against the Benfica attacker in midweek but should find it easier to exploit the space against Schalke.

A prime summer target for Barcelona. (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Kimmich to play a vital role. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

With the likes of Thiago Alcantara and Corentin Tolisso injured, Javi Martinez is likely to be deployed as the main defensive midfielder in Bayern’s 4-1-4-1. The Spaniard will be partnered by James Rodriguez and Thomas Muller, who will replace Renato Sanches in central midfield. But, it will be interesting to see who drops deep in order to support Martinez.

Kovac could hand Arjen Robben a much-needed breather following a tiring game against Benfica. In his stead, former Arsenal prodigy Serge Gnabry will be deployed as the right winger with Franck Ribery starting on the opposite flank.

The Bayern attack will be led by none other than Robert Lewandowski, who hasn’t scored in the past couple of matches. Therefore, the Polish international will be eager to extend his scoring tally this weekend.

Probable lineup(4-1-4-1): Neuer; Kimmich, Sule, Hummels, Alaba; Martinez; Gnabry, Muller, Rodriguez, Ribery; Lewandowski.

Match Stats

  • Bayern are undefeated in their last 17 matches against Schalke in all competitions.
  • Bayern have been winning at both half time and full time in their last 3 matches against Schalke in all competitions.
  • Bayern have scored at least 2 goals in 7 of their last 8 away matches against Schalke in all competitions.
  • There have been under 2.5 goals scored in Schalke‘s last home games.
  • Schalke have conceded at least 2 goals in their last matches.

Key player

James Rodriguez

MUNICH, GERMANY - JANUARY 09: James Rodriguez of Bayern Muenchen looks down during the friendly match between Bayern Muenchen and SG Sonnenhof Grossaspach at Allianz Arena on January 9, 2018 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Bongarts/Getty Images)

One to look out for. (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Bayern Munich superstar James Rodriguez made a huge impression in the midweek game against Benfica, after initially recovering from an injury throughout last month. Even though Bayern were without their main creative outlets in the likes of Thomas Muller and Thiago Alcantara, the Colombian still managed to muster the most number of key passes than any other player on the pitch.

This points to the fact that James is indeed a vital cog in Bayern’s creative setup. And his ability to carve through the opposition defence could be useful as Bayern look to inflict further damage into the hearts of the Schalke fans and players alike, this weekend.

Prediction

Schalke 1-1 Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich are strong favourites to bag all three points from this rather one-sided contest, largely due to their excellent form coupled with Schalke’s miserable start to the season. However, as we have most often witnessed, most Bundesliga giants often tend to prove themselves against the Bavarians and we expect Schalke to pull off the same feat when they lock horns with the German champions this weekend.

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