Schalke will kickstart their new journey under Manuel Baum as they lock horns with RB Leipzig at the Red Bull Arena on Saturday.

It has been a miserable start to the campaign for FC Schalke. After flirting with the bottom half of the league table last season, the Royal Blues kickstarted their campaign with an 8-0 defeat to Bayern Munich, which was followed by an equally disappointing 3-1 loss at the hands of Werder Bremen, who finished in the relegation playoff zone last season.

Such a poor run of performances forced Schalke to sack David Wagner as the head coach earlier this week, with the Ruhrpott giants signing former Augsburg boss Manuel Baum as the new boss. Incidentally, former Schalke defender Naldo has joined as the support staff of Baum, who is perhaps unlucky to face a daunting task of RB Leipzig in his first encounter.

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

David Wagner was sacked by Schalke earlier this week. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

Die Roten Bullen, coached by one of the most brilliant minds in world football, Julian Nagelsmann, were involved in a rusty 1-1 draw with Bayer Leverkusen in the last game. But, there has been a significant improvement in terms of the overall balance of the side, despite the departure of Timo Werner to Chelsea.

RB Leipzig are being considered as a candidate for the Bundesliga title so they will be expected to seal all three points in this fixture. However, Nagelsmann will remain cautious against Schalke, especially under Baum, who loves his side to embrace a counter-attacking approach.

And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this enticing matchup in the Bundesliga this weekend.

Team News & Tactics

RB Leipzig

Hwang Hee-chan has been brought in to fill the void left by Timo Werner. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Hwang Hee-chan has been brought in to fill the void left by Timo Werner. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Nagelsmann, unfortunately, is missing out on the services of some of his star players including captain Marcel Sabitzer as well as the marquee signing, Hwang Hee-chan. However, fans will be excited about the arrival of Alexander Sorloth, who could even get his first start in the Bundesliga as Yussuf Poulsen is struggling with a slight thigh complaint.

Sabitzer’s absence means USMNT star Tyler Roberts could once again anchor the midfield, alongside the calm and composed Kevin Kampl. These two could play a crucial role in helping Leipzig dominate the proceedings against Schalke, though the onus will be on the duo of Emil Forsberg and Dani Olmo to provide that creative spark in the final third.

Forsberg, in particular, has livened up this season following his struggles with injuries and lack of game-time over the past couple of years. He could be a vital cog in the Leipzig unit.

Elsewhere, both Amadou Haidara and Angelino are guaranteed starters, occupying the wing-back roles. However, it is quite flexible since the right-sided centre back in Nordi Mukiele can always operate as a right-back, giving the freedom to Haidara to act as a right-sided midfielder or even support the central midfielders if necessary.

Mukiele, therefore, is a crucial member of the defence but so is star player Dayot Upamecano as well as the versatile Lukas Klostermann. These two will look to keep Schalke shut, although the Royal Blues haven’t truly impressed going forward in recent years.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Gulacsi; Mukiele, Upamecano, Klostermann; Haidara, Adams, Kampl, Angelino; Olmo, Forsberg; Sorloth

FC Schalke

No Harit tomorrow. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

No Harit on Saturday. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Manuel Baum has a lot of decisions to make regarding his team selection this week. He will be without three key players, in the form of Ozan Kabak, who is suspended; while Amine Harit has joined Suat Serdar on the treatment table.

FC Schalke have minimal options at the back, especially in the right-back unit where Wagner was forced to deploy Sebastian Rudy. And given the quality of the opposition, the ex-Bayern Munich midfielder’s experience could be preferred ahead of the young Timo Becker. In contrast, Bastian Oczipka is a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank.

Salif Sane and Matija Nastatic should form the central defensive partnership in the absence of Kabak. Ralf Fahrmann is the natural choice to pick up the gloves.

Baum could opt for a 4-1-4-1 with the lone holding midfielder playing some sort of Daniel Baier role by providing cover for the backline. Omar Mascarell has a lot of experience in playing that role so we might see him operate as number six.

Moving forward, Baum might restore Alessandro Schopf on the right-hand side due to his quality in the counter-attack. He and Mark Uth could occupy the wide attacking roles, with Nabil Bentaleb and Nassim Boujellab forming the attacking double-pivot. They will be expected to provide support to Mascarell, however.

And finally, the Schalke attack should be spearheaded by new signing Goncalo Paciencia. The ex-Eintracht Frankfurt man is simply the better option when compared to Vedad Ibisevic due to his work-rate and ability, which could be useful for the Royal Blues against Leipzig this weekend.

Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Fährmann; Rudy, Sane, Nastasic, Oczipka; Mascarell; Schöpf, Boujellab, Bentaleb, Uth; Paciencia

Key Stats

  • Four points from a possible six represent Leipzig’s second-best start to a Bundesliga campaign. Nagelsmann also masterminded the gold standard with maximum points at the same stage last term.
  • Nagelsmann’s unbeaten start at the Leipzig helm was ended by Schalke, but revenge was sweet: a 5-0 win in Gelsenkirchen – the club’s most prominent yet on the road in the Bundesliga.
  • With two goals, Forsberg is enjoying a career-best start to a Bundesliga season. The Swede scored home and away against Schalke last season.
  • Schalke are the first team in Bundesliga history to have conceded double figures for goals after two matchdays. Minus-10 is a club-worst goal difference ratio at this juncture.
  • Eighteen matches without a win is also an unwanted club record for Schalke. Six successive defeats would be another if they lose in Leipzig.

Player to Watch

Alexander Sorloth

Alexander Sorloth is definitely one to keep an eye on as he became the latest star striker to join the Bundesliga. It is a significant signing for Leipzig too following the fitness issues of Hwang as well as the departures of Werner and Patrik Schick this summer.

The ex-Crystal Palace striker, therefore, can fill that void in the number nine role while also allowing the likes of Hwang and others to operate more freely in the final third. However, it will be interesting to see how he adapts to Nagelsmann’s tactics and whether or not he can expand his versatility and perhaps even create a solid combination with Poulsen.

An underperforming team like Schalke serves as an ideal opponent for Sorloth to kickstart his Bundesliga career and compete with some of the league’s best forwards including Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland.

Prediction

RB Leipzig 3-1 Schalke

Leipzig have looked dodgy at times this season, and that could allow Baum’s counter-attacking Schalke to sneak a goal or two in this fascinating encounter. However, the hosts have way too many advantages, particularly considering the strength of their depth. So we are expecting a 3-1 win for Die Roten Bullen this weekend.

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