These two historic clubs continue to head in opposite directions. As Bayern Munich continue to cope with a three-front battle, Schalke proceeds to struggle with it.
Even with an array of injuries, Bayern has found away to keep themselves at the highest level. It was not until this transfer window where the front office was forced into acquiring two players. Bayern played more competitive matches last season than they have in their history, and yet they were still able to come out of it with a domestic double.
Meanwhile, Schalke's form is often dictated with how many competitions they are juggling at one time. The seven match unbeaten run which catapulted them into third place started around the same time Real Madrid was booting them out of the Champions League. They are able to cruise through the lesser Bundesliga sides, but have shown that they cannot raise their game against top European sides.
The match for Schalke probably comes at a perfect time, with no midweek matches and an international break on the other end. That being said, Bayern is starting to crank up the engine that will motor them through the Hinrunde, and all Schalke might get from this match is exhaust in their face.
The Match (101st Meeting)
Location: Veltins Arena, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
Head: Marko Fritz
Assistants: Thorsten Schiffner, Dominik Schaal
Fourth Official: Bibiana Steinhaus
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Television and Streaming:
UK: BT Sport 1
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FC Bayern: WWL
Schalke 04: LL
Bundesliga: 44 W, 26 D, 18 L
DFB Pokal: 6 W, 1 D, 2 L
DFL Supercup: 1 W, 0 L
Ligapokal: 2 W, 0 L
Largest Victory: 8-1 (Bundesliga: April 9, 1988, Gelsenkirchen)
Largest Defeat: 0-7 (Bundesliga: October 9, 1976, Munich)
Pep Guardiola now has two new toys to play with, and he is not going to wait to open them. Both Mehdi Benatia and Xabi Alonso are going to travel to Gelsenkirchen, and the gaffer revealed that both are fit to play.
"Both are fit, both can play," said Guardiola [Bild]. "Alonso played in the Spanish Supercup. He passed his physical. Benatia has not played for a little longer. But they are okay."
Adding the two to the team sheet will shuffle around already moving parts. For the first time this season, Gianluca Gaudino could be superfluous to the squad, but his playmaking abilities and his stellar debut might have done enough to keep him in the mix. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg has seen a significant drop in playing time with the return of Philipp Lahm, so he might end up getting the short end of the stick.
Xherdan Shaqiri might fall into that category as well, his run on the right flank slowly coming to an end. Franck Ribery is hoping he can promptly return, and he and Arjen Robben (questionable with an ankle injury) are higher on the depth chard than the Swiss is. Guardiola could easily use the same front he did a week ago against VfL Wolfsburg, and if Lahm moves to the flank, Shaqiri will have to watch the match from the stands.
Jerome Boateng will boost the Bayern defense after his red-card suspension, allowing Guardiola to use the back-three he has grown fond of. They will have their hands full with Schalke's new additions, though, and the formation could quickly switch to a back-four if Bayern allow too much space.
Bayern have not been troubled with Schalke recently, and restored midfield depth will allow them to take advantage of the Königsblauen wobbly spine.
Update [August 29, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT]: Kai Psotta from Bild is reporting that Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry, and Mehdi Benatia did not travel to Gelsenkirchen and will not be available. Ribéry (knee) and Robben (ankle) are still recovering from injuries while Benatia is trying to regain his fitness from the offseason.
Projected Lineup (3-4-1-2):
Thomas Müller – Robert Lewandowski
Juan Bernat – David Alaba – Gianluca Gaudino – Philipp Lahm
Holger Badstuber – Dante – Jerome Boateng
Bench: Pepe Reina, Tom Starke, Sebastian Rode, Xabi Alonso, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Xherdan Shaqiri, Claudio Pizarro
Of the Champions League representatives from the Bundesliga, Schalke has probably changed the least. Sure, the addition of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Sidney Sam have added depth, crucial with the losses of Leon Goretzka and Jefferson Farfán, but stylistically they have remained the same team.
That has been a problem for Jens Keller, already on thin ice after Schalke have slowly slipped deeper into domestic irrelevancy. The Königsblauen lacked continuity in their first two matches, only able to muster one goal against Dynamo Dresden and Hannover 96. A formidable front of Choupo-Moting, Sam, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has gotten little to no support from the center of midfield, leaving them isolated to try and manufacture chances on their own.
Keller is wrongly convinced that Kevin-Prince Boateng is the next Bastian Schweinsteiger, which leaves Roman Neustädter alone in midfield to try and shield a shaky group of center backs. Injuries to Sead Kolasinac and Atsuto Uchida means that Keller must rely on the mediocrity of Christian Fuchs and Marco Höger as well.
This Schalke team is going to struggle out of the gate, and Saturday's match will likely be part of that.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting – Max Meyer – Sidney Sam
Roman Neustädter – Kevin-Prince Boateng
Christian Fuchs – Joël Matip – Benedikt Höwedes – Marco Höger
Bench: Christian Wetklo, Felipe Santana, Kaan Ayhan, Christian Clemens, Julian Draxler, Tranquillo Barnetta
Let us not beat around the bush. Schalke are not set up to beat Bayern in this match, even with Bayern struggling with fitness issues. Guardiola will take advantage of the midfield, and Schalke will have a hard time finding the continuity to build up any significant chance. If Edgar Prib and Joselu are able to score, Robert Lewandowski should not have any trouble either.