It’s a battle of the Miserables as FC Schalke lock horns with SV Werder Bremen at Veltins Arena on Saturday.

Following an electrifying opening matchday of the 2020/21 campaign, the topspiel of the Matchday 2, in the Bundesliga this weekend will feature two of the worst-performing teams in the division as FC Schalke host last season’s relegation fighters Werder Bremen, at the Veltins Arena on Saturday.

The home team, Schalke, took the ultimate beating from champions Bayern Munich in their opening fixture, slumping to an 8-0 defeat. Their “Barcelona treatment” last weekend should force David Wagner’s men to adopt a more cautious approach as they look to find a positive run of form that might help them going forward.

Bremen, on the other hand, lived up to their reputation of being a poor defensive team by conceding four goals against Hertha Berlin last weekend. Former Herthaner Davie Selke scored the only goal in a 4-1 defeat, with coach Florian Kohfeldt now facing a daunting task of pulling things back.

Fortunately, Bremen do have an impressive attacking unit, though it will be pitted against a Schalke side, who, barring their defeat to Bayern, have a decent defensive setup. So, here, at The Hard Tackle, we will be taking a look at both these sides ahead of this enticing clash in the Bundesliga this weekend.

Tactics & Team News

FC Schalke

Schalke’s main weakness in their last game was the penetrative long balls of Bayern Munich players that caught the defence by surprise. So it won’t be surprising to see Wagner employing a relatively deeper line of defence, with the two centre-backs in Ozan Kabak and Matija Nastasic operating in a more compact shape to also avoid gifting the opposition any space in between the lines.

Unfortunately, Wagner doesn’t have much to choose from so we might see him deploy the same defence, with Bastian Oczipka and Sebastian Rudy playing as full-backs, covering Ralf Fahrmann in goal.

Moving forward, the Royal Blues have their key midfielder Omar Mascarell out injured while Suat Serdar also picked up a knock, thus paving the way for Benjamin Stambouli to operate in central midfield, alongside Nabil Bentaleb in the double-pivot. Schalke do have other alternatives in Nassim Boujellab and Can Bozdogan.

Further upfront, Schalke might shift back to a more familiar 4-2-3-1 setup that should see Amine Harit feature in his customary attacking midfield role, with Rabbi Matondo and Benito Raman offering support from the wider attacking positions.

In the number nine slot, new signing Vedad Ibisevic will still have to wait for his first start for Schalke as the club’s attacking unit is likely to be led by Goncalo Paciencia, ahead of the likes of Mark Uth, Guido Burgstaller and Ibisevic himself.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Fahrmann; Rudy, Kabak, Nastasic, Oczipka; Stambouli, Bentaleb; Matondo, Harit, Raman; Paciencia

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Werder Bremen

Kohfeldt is missing out on the services of Omer Toprak heading into this game while key attacker Milot Rashica is a doubt. The dynamic winger didn’t feature in the last game and might not make it in time for this one either, potentially paving the way for Leonardo Bittencourt to return to the starting lineup.

The ex-Koln forward has the quality to make a difference against Schalke. He should, thus, get the nod ahead of youngster Josh Sargent, who may have to settle for a place on the bench.

It should see Davie Selke and Yuya Osako leading the Bremen attack, with the wide attacking duo of Tahith Chong and Bittencourt providing the supply. The Green and Whites do have other options, however, in the shape of Sargent, as well as, Niclas Fullkrug and academy product Nick Woltemade.

Kohfeldt does have a fit midfield unit so we can continue to expect Maximilian Eggestein and Davy Klaassen forming the double-pivot. Patrick Erras is the other option, should the Bremen coach opt for a more defensive approach.

Speaking of defence, we are likely to witness an unchanged back-four of Theodor Gebre Selassie, Niklas Moisander, Marco Freidl and Ludwig Augustinsson. They will cover Jiri Pavlenka in goal.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Pavlenka; Gebre Selassie, Moisander, Freidl, Augustinsson; Eggestein, Klaassen; Chong, Osako, Bittencourt; Selke

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Key Stats

  • Schalke coach David Wagner is on the third-longest winless run of any Bundesliga coach (17), after Heinz-Ludwig Schmidt (20, Tasmania Berlin) and Bernd Hoss (21 games, Blau-Weiß Berlin).
  • Suat Serdar hit a team-leading seven Bundesliga goals for Schalke last season, followed by Amine Harit’s six.
  • Amine Harit’s last Bundesliga goal came on 23 November 2019, on Matchday 12 of the previous campaign, against Werder Bremen.
  • Werder Bremen have won their last four at Schalke, including three in the Bundesliga.
  • The Green-Whites have lost their first two matches in three of the past four league seasons.

Player to Watch

Goncalo Paciencia

Last weekend, Schalke’s new signing Goncalo Paciencia was extremely unlucky to be making his debut against Bayern Munich as he struggled without any kind of supply in the final third. However, this time around, the Portuguese striker could become the main difference between the two sides.

Indeed, the ex-Eintracht Frankfurt star, unlike the likes of Ibisevic and Burgstaller, is a proactive striker. He can work-hard for his team and shift into a different role if necessary, all the while boasting immense physical and aerial prowess. It could serve Schalke well, especially against a leaky Bremen defence this weekend.

Therefore, the visitors must keep a close eye on Paciencia if they are to have any hopes of keeping a clean sheet or even salvaging anything from this fixture.

Prediction

FC Schalke 1-1 Werder Bremen

This is, no doubt, fascinating encounter as the Bremen attack looks to get the better of a relatively solid Schalke defence. It could well turn out to be a cat and mouse chase so we expect a 1-1 draw, with the visitors more likely to dominate the game despite their poor run of form.

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