Cover up the Bundesliga table for a second. What is the difference between these two clubs?
Both clubs have advanced to the second round of the DFB Pokal. Both clubs won their Champions League matches at midweek. The seats of both managers are a little warmer than other manager seats around the Bundesliga. Both clubs are hoping that their squad depth will carry them through a three-front campaign.
Heck, both clubs even have a Boateng, and both clubs do not particularly like the color yellow.
So what's the difference? Well, now uncover the Bundesliga standings. A sluggish start has FC Schalke 04 with only seven points, and FC Bayern München is still feeling the ramifications of Nicolas Höfler's 86th minute equalizer as they sit two points behind Borussia Dortmund.
Will that separate the two clubs? Well, the fact that the game is in Veltins-Arena could balance the scales once again, making this matchup of German giants a very intriguing Saturday night-cap.
The Match (99th Meeting)
Location: Veltins-Arena, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
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Television and Streaming: Gol TV (USA), BT Sport 1 (UK), Sky Bundesliga 1 | HD / 2 | HD (Germany), Other Countries
FC Bayern: WDWWW
FC Schalke: WWLLD
Bundesliga: 42 W, 26 D, 18 L
DFB Pokal: 6 W, 1 D, 2 L
Ligapokal: 2 W, 0 L
DFL Supercup: 1 W, 0 L
Top Scorers (Bundesliga)
1. Gerhard "Gerd" Müller, FCB – 18
2. Klaus Fischer, S04 – 10
3. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, FCB – 9
4. Rüdiger Abramczik, S04; Dieter Brenninger, FCB; Lothar Matthäus, FCB; Rainer Ohlhauser, FCB – 6
Largest Victory: 8-1 (April 4, 1988, Gelsenkirchen, Germany)
Largest Defeat: 0-7 (October 10, 1976, Munich, Germany)
Highest-Scoring Draw: 6-6 (DFB Pokal: May 2, 1984, Gelsenkirchen, Germany)
Most Goals Scored: 4 (Gerhard "Gerd" Müller, September 9, 1973; Klaus Fischer, October 9, 1976)
The negative of having a Tuesday Champions League match is the short time available to prepare. The positive? Getting an extra day of rest before the weekend match. The Schalke match could not come at a better time, with the squad depth resurfacing and the squad changes gelled in a bit more.
The biggest question mark remains around Bastian Schweinsteiger, still recovering from the ankle injury he collected against SC Freiburg. He did come out and say he's not 100 percent fit, which a) is no surprise, and b) means that he will not start. His comments indicates that the Philipp Lahm experiment will get another data sample, and Rafinha will get to start against his former team.
While the front may lack the chutzpah of the 98-goal side from a year ago, FC Bayern have stapled down the back pretty well. Jérôme Boateng is in good form, not making as many mistakes and recovering well, and Dante is once again becoming the rock-solid defender from a year ago. The back has conceded two goals in five Bundesliga game, and just put up a clean sheet against Russian giants PFC CSKA Moskva. Mid-game switches to a 4-2-3-1 also explain the improvement in the back.
With the DFB Pokal against Hannover 96 on Wednesday, some players may sit, but do not expect more than player rotation. Xherdan Shaqiri may be itching for pitch time, but Guardiola could grant him that in the midweek match. With so many players performing well, Guardiola would be wise to keep his best team on the pitch.
Projected Line-up (4-1-4-1):
Alaba – Dante – J. Boateng – Rafinha
What a difference getting a Boateng makes. The Kevin-Prince Boateng to Schalke transfer finalized on August 29; they have won every match since that point, and he even scored the only goal to halt the momentum of Mainz.
Even though have just seven points, their improved squad depth and their imported transfers make the Königsblauen a fearful team. Manager Jens Keller is still sitting on a hot seat, especially with the squad he has put together for the 2013/14 campaign.
Huntelaar (knee) and defender Kiriakos Papadopoulos (knee) are already ruled out for Saturday's match, although Adam Szalai and Joel Matip have filled in extremely well. Defender Sead Kolasinac (muscle tear) has come back to full training, but does not expect to be on the team sheet. One switch Keller could make is to insert midfielder Jermaine Jones – suspended for Wednesday's Champions League match – in for Marco Höger or Roman Neustadter.
Although, Keller has only made one change to the Starting XI over the past three games. Felipe Santana, coming over from longtime rivals Borussia Dortmund, was that change, starting in center defense against Bayer Leverkusen instead of Benedikt Höwedes. With a match against the defending champions, expect Keller to come out of the Veltins-Arena tunnel with all hands on deck. Well, expect at least to come out with the hands he does have.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Draxler – K. Boateng – Farfán
Höger – Neustadter
Bench: Fährmann, Ayhan, Santana, Jones, Meyer, Goretzka, Clemens
There is a reason this game was pushed up three hours, placed squarely in Germany prime-time television: This is going to be a magnificent match. Boateng vs. Boateng, the return of Neuer and Rafinha, and a match between two teams that hate Borussia Dortmund. FC have on many occasions spoiled a Bundesliga crown for the Rekordmeister, and will look to do it again. While both teams are on tremendous form, and FC Bayern will have to push hard to knock Schalke off their current run.
Projected Score: FC Bayern München 1, FC Schalke 04 1