FC Schalke will look to avoid any further embarrassment when they travel to An der alter Forsterei to face Union Berlin on Sunday.
FC Schalke are in the midst of a complete calamity at the moment. The Royal Blues are by far the worst-performing team in the Bundesliga currently, having failed to win a single game since their 2-1 win over Borussia Monchengladbach back in January. They are currently on an eleven game winless run.
Schalke’s most recent debacle came against Werder Bremen, losing to the northern giants by a 1-0 margin at home. The defeat allowed Hertha Berlin to kick them out of the top half of the Bundesliga table. And heading into this recent fixture, the Ruhrpott giants are running the risk of being overtaken by Eintracht Frankfurt (11th) as well as 1.FC Koln (12th).
That being said, Union Berlin are not having a great time either. The Bundesliga new boys are winless since February and have conceded 14 goals in their last five fixtures. Their leaky defence has seen them drop to 14th in the league table.
Although Die Eisernen still have a decent lead over 1.FSV Mainz 05 and Fortuna Dusseldorf, they are pretty much involved the relegation scrap, with five matches remaining. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this enticing fixture in the German top flight this weekend.
Tactics & Team News
1. FC Union Berlin
Urs Fischer will be boosted by the return of Robert Andrich this weekend. He is tipped to replace Grischa Prommel in central midfield and form the double-pivot alongside the experienced Christian Gentner. These two midfielders will play a key role in denying the Schalke midfield from imposing their dominance in the proceedings.
Fischer’s side favours a long-ball strategy, meaning the presence of tall forward Sebastian Andersson could be key. The 1.90m giant will look to provide the aerial and physical edge in the side while being partnered by Marcus Ingvartsen and Marius Bulter, who has impressed since joining from Magdeburg.
At the back, however, the presence of three towering defenders in Neven Subotic, Kevin Schlotterbeck and Marvin Friedrich mean Union are likely to employ a deep-defensive block. Indeed, they could defend in numbers, looking to minimise Schalke’s creative potential in the final third.
That means Andrich coming into the side is the real change we could expect from Fischer this weekend. At the same time, the Union coach also has other exciting options on the bench including Yunus Malli and Anthony Ujah.
Predicted Lineup (3-4-3): Gikiewicz; Subotic, Friedrich, Schlotterbeck; Trimmel, Gentner, Andrich, Lenz; Ingvartsen, Andersson, Bulter
FC Schalke 04
David Wagner is set to miss out on the services of a host of star players including Amine Harit. The attacking midfielder is out with a ligament problem, joining equally important figures of Suat Serdar and Omar Mascarell on the sidelines. And to make matters worse, midfield dynamo Weston McKennie is suspended.
Schalke’s midfield injury crisis should force Wagner to start with academy star Nassim Boujellab. The young Moroccan appeared as a substitute against Bremen in the last game and will be keen on making an impact this time around.
Boujellab is set to partner Alessandro Schopf in central midfield, although French youngster Jean-Clair Todibo, on loan from Barcelona, is also an option in the number six slot.
There is a possibility Wagner might not make any changes in the backline, with Ozan Kabak, Salif Sane and Matija Nastastic forming the three-man defence. They looked extremely sloppy against Bremen and must improve if they are to keep hold of an unpredictable Union attack this weekend.
And finally, in attack, Benito Raman could be awarded a starting berth, at the expense of Michael Gregoritsch. The Belgian could spearhead the Schalke attack alongside Daniel Caligiuri and Guido Burgstaller.
Predicted Lineup (3-4-3): Nubel; Kabak, Sane, Nastastic; Kenny, Schopf, Boujellab, Oczipka; Caligiuri, Burgstaller, Raman
- Schalke’s 2-1 win in Gelsenkirchen on Matchday 13 is the duo’s only previous top-flight meeting. Suat Serdar scored an 86th-minute winner after Marcus Ingvartsen’s penalty had cancelled out Benito Raman’s 23rd-minute opener.
- That week was the only time in the 2019/20 season that Schalke have featured in the top three in the table. They now trail the Bundesliga’s first three teams by 21 points.
- Schalke’s goals against Union Berlin mean they have found the net against all 55 clubs ever to play in the Bundesliga. The Royal Blues’ 34 goals in 29 games is, however, the fourth-worst return in the league this season.
- Union are on their longest winless run since gaining promotion for the first time (six matches).
- Four points above 16th place is the closest Die Eisernen have been to the relegation zone since Matchday 11.
Player to Watch
Sebastian Andersson has scored more headed goals (7) than any other player in Bundesliga this season.
Lethal in the air. pic.twitter.com/mpdKz60Mc1
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 31, 2020
With Schalke seemingly struggling to maintain their solidity at the back, it is reasonable to think that Union Berlin could employ a slightly more offensive approach against the Royal Blues this weekend. That’s where Andersson could come into the fray.
The tall forward is essential to Union’s attacking system, with his physical and aerial presence giving his side with a definite target man going forward. He has, in fact, scored the most headed goals in the Bundesliga so far, with seven.
Overall, Andersson has scored 12 goals in 29 matches this season – a tally only bettered by three other Bundesliga players. But interestingly, it is also more than one-third of what Schalke have scored as a whole unit. Hence, stopping this towering Swede will be imperative if David Wagner’s men are to salvage all three points this weekend.
1. FC Union Berlin 2-1 FC Schalke 04
Schalke have shown no signs of promise and without any radical changes in the club’s work-ethic and squad harmony, they are unlikely to return to winning ways. Union Berlin could take advantage of their apparent misery to seal all three points from what is expected to be a tightly-matched encounter.