Playing next to Johannes Geis in a flat double-pivot system, Højbjerg was the most active player in the match, leading bot teams with 115 touches and 99 passes. He started in a deeper role to start the match, but moved higher when Schalke manager André Breitenreiter brought Kaan Ayhan into midfield. He even had a shot off the woodwork, although it came off of a squandered breakaway chance late in the first half.
Højbjerg thus far has had to bide his time on the bench, only getting 60 minutes of work before his start on Thursday. Breitenreiter has tried his best to accommodate Schalke's plethora of forwards while also giving academy products a chance to play. That has involved playing Max Meyer on the flank, Leon Goretzka as a central midfielder, and Erik Maxim Choupo-Moting having to defend more than he probably should.
Nonetheless, Højbjerg's presence in this match may be too big for Breitenreiter to ignore. Marko Höger is the Dane's direct competition for a spot, and he has suffered a horrific knee injury against Hamburger SV. Sporting director Horst Heldt wants Højbjerg to stay too, which could mean a chance to play regularly is coming soon.
"We want to make the choice to return to Bayern in the summer as hard as possible for him," Heldt said this week.
The Buyback Brigade
Alessandro Schöpf, 1. FC Nürnberg – A year of first-team football under his belt, Schöpf has arguably been Nürnberg's best player. Nürnberg manager René Weiler has used him in several different positions, playing him the most on the right flank. He has scored three goals in nine appearances already this season, impressive considering he scored five all of last season. Even with his stronger goal tally, his presence in attack is still of a 2. Bundesliga player, and he has yet to show the playmaking ability that got him a professional contract with Bayern in the first place.
Raif Husic, SV Werder Bremen II – A year ago he was Bremen's backup goalkeeper behind Raphael Wolf. Now he is not even making the team sheet at the reserve level in the 3. Liga. Husic got a good run-in with Bremen II last season, but has not even received a taste after he helped the second team reach promotion. He was a player Matthias Sammer wanted to keep around, but right now he is more destined to be a Leopold Zingerle rather than a Thomas Kraft.
Diego Contento, Girondins de Bordeaux – Bayern sold Contento (well... half of him) to Bordeaux last season, and it was the opportunity he had awaited for a long time. The opportunity may be slipping away from him though as Maxime Poundjé continues to supplant him. His ball skills are above average for a left back, but he still struggles to close down the ball. Poundjé meanwhile is younger, faster, and may be Bordeaux's best defender at the moment. Contento thus returns to the same role he was in at Bayern: watching from the sidelines as an academy product two years younger than him gets the first-team reps.