The 2020/21 edition of the Bundesliga gets underway on Friday as reigning champions Bayern Munich lock horns with FC Schalke at the Allianz Arena.

When Bayern Munich sacked Niko Kovac following an embarrassing 5-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt, the club’s winning cycle in Germany was at a breaking point. That was until the arrival of Hansi Flick.

Initially appointed as the interim coach, Flick became a quick success in Bavaria, primarily due to a comprehensive 4-0 win over Borussia Dortmund in his first game in charge. It was followed by a sensational run of performances that eventually saw Bayern Munich not only seal their eighth successive Bundesliga title but also the UEFA Champions League as well as DFB Pokal.

And as we head towards the start of a new Bundesliga season, Bayern Munich’s dominance over Germany seems higher than ever before, with Bavarians widely expected to seal their ninth successive league title in the upcoming campaign.

For Schalke, it serves as an opportunity for coach David Wagner to prove his credentials following a difficult 2019/20 campaign, which was followed by an equally tough summer.

Just before the resumption of last season’s Bundesliga, the Royal Blues were on the verge of bankruptcy and they are still going through a financial crisis that has crippled their powers in the transfer market while key players have left the club. So a finish in the top eight would be considered as an achievement for the club in the upcoming season.

Nevertheless, perhaps the most exciting thing about this Bundesliga season is the expected return of fans inside the stadium, though unfortunately, the authorities have decided to reject Bayern’s plea of allowing 7,500 fans for this fixture, following a growing number of Coronavirus infections in this region.

That is unlikely to affect the quality of this game, however. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we run the rule over these two sides in this Bundesliga season opener on Friday night.

Tactics & Team News

Bayern Munich

Thiago Alcantara’s move to Liverpool, though yet to be made official, has attracted a lot of attention this week. It has left a massive void in Bayern Munich’s midfield unit, meaning it is now up to Joshua Kimmich to grow into the number six role.

Hansi Flick is most likely to retain his signature 4-2-3-1 formation so we do expect Kimmich and Leon Goretzka to form the double-pivot. Other options include Corentin Tolisso and Mickael Cuisance.

Set for a return to Barcelona? (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Bongarts/Getty Images)

His services will be missed. (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Bongarts/Getty Images)

However, Flick faces a massive problem in the attacking department, especially following the departure of Ivan Rakitic and Philippe Coutinho after the expiry of their loan deals.

Kingsley Coman is one of their key members of the attack but will not be available for this clash due to Coronavirus protocol, having come in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. He has tested negative but will not be considered for Friday’s game.

It leaves Flick with very little option but to go with new signing Leroy Sane. The German international still lacks fitness after coming back from a long injury layoff so he might not feature throughout the entirety of the ninety minutes.

That’s not the case with Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller or Robert Lewandowski, however, as all of them are surefire starters in attack.

And finally, in defence, Jerome Boateng is an option but coach Flick could opt for the central defensive duo of David Alaba and Niklas Sule, though the former faces an uncertain future at the club. Manuel Neuer, Alphonso Davies and Benjamin Pavard, meanwhile, are guaranteed starters in their respective positions.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Pavard, Sule, Alaba, Davies; Kimmich, Goretzka; Gnabry, Muller, Sane; Lewandowski

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FC Schalke 04

Schalke coach David Wagner will have to deal with some notable absentees heading into this fixture including Salif Sane and Omar Mascarell, while Matija Nastastic is a doubt as he is suffering from a head injury.

Should Nastastic miss out, Benjamin Stambouli is in line to feature at centre-back, alongside the main component of the Schalke defence in Ozan Kabak. These two will be supported by the full-back duo of Bastian Oczipka and Sebastian Rudy, who will be expected to replace Jonjoe Kenny for the time being as Schalke haven’t signed a right-back yet.

Wagner needs to pull his side up and warrant a result against Augsburg. (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Wagner needs to pull his side up and warrant a result against Bayern Munich. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

Markus Schubert served as the alternative for now Bayern Munich goalkeeper Alexander Nubel last season. But the youngster failed to make an impressive and might be replaced by the experienced Ralf Fahrmann, returning from his loan spell at Norwich City.

Another returning loan player in Nabil Bentaleb may get the nod in central midfield due to the injury of Mascarell. The Algerian is likely to partner Nassim Boujellab and Suat Serdar in the three-man Schalke midfield unit. Youngster Can Bozdogan is also an option, however.

And finally, in the attack, Wagner has three options in the number nine role, having secured the services of Vedad Ibisevic and Goncalo Paciencia this summer. He is likely to go for the latter.

The Portuguese forward is much more proactive and competent, as compared to Ibisevic and Guido Burgstaller. So, he could be useful for Schalke, especially partnering someone like Mark Uth. Amine Harit, meanwhile, is set to start as the lone number ten, though Benito Raman and Rabbi Matondo are also options in the creative unit.

Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Fahrmann; Rudy, Kabak, Stambouli, Oczipka; Serdar, Bentaleb, Boujellab; Harit; Uth, Paciencia

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Key Stats

  • Robert Lewandowski scored four of his 34 Bundesliga goals last season against Schalke, including a hat-trick on Matchday 2. The Royal Blues are among the 32-year-old’s favourite opponents: he has 19 goals in 19 outings against them.
  • Suat Serdar was Schalke’s top scorer in 2019/20 with seven.
  • This will be the 101st Bundesliga meeting between the sides. Bayern have won 54 of those; Schalke 18, with 28 draws.
  • Over the summer, former Schalke No.1 Nübel moved to Bayern, following a path previously trodden by Leon Goretzka and Manuel Neuer.
  • Sane is another former Schalke player on Bayern’s books. The Germany international could make his competitive debut for the defending champions against his boyhood club.

Player to Watch

Leroy Sane

Bundesliga fans are fearing another year of Bayern’s dominance in the Bundesliga, particularly due to their fiery form under Hansi Flick. But, the acquisition of Leroy Sane that has inflicted a lot of fear on the opposition as Bundesliga clubs are well aware of the quality he brings to the table.

Schalke, in particular, have an excellent idea of Sane’s prowess, having been home to the German international during his early rise to prominence. In fact, Sane had scored 13 goals in 57 competitive appearances for Schalke before earning a big money €45 million move to Manchester City in 2016.

He is now poised to make his competitive debut for Bayern Munich and it will be interesting to see how he performs in new colours. And especially with Coman out and no Perisic or Coutinho, the onus will be on the 24-year-old to quickly settle in alongside the likes of Gnabry, Muller and Lewandowski.

Prediction

Bayern Munich 2-0 FC Schalke

Bayern Munich are not as strong as they were last season, primarily due to the departure of Thiago while Perisic and Coutinho have also left the club. But, they should not have any problems in dominating a Schalke side who are looking to find the right rhythm and identity, especially following a dire summer transfer window. We are expecting a comfortable victory for the Bavarians.

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