Bayern Munich have been mostly dominant in Bundesliga play this season with four exceptions – a 2-1 win against Hoffenheim, a 2-1 win against Augsburg, a 1-0 win against Werder Bremen, and a 0-0 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Three of those results came on the road, three of those results came before Champions League matches, and two of those results came after international breaks. Bayern's match against Schalke 04 this weekend meets all of those criteria, and the Königsblauen are the toughest Bundesliga opponents Bayern have played away from home this season.
Fortunately for Bayern, Schalke is not in the best of form, their last victory coming in mid-October. Bayern have their own injury absences to deal with, but Schalke does not have its best midfielder and their two best center backs have had their own fitness issues this season. Schalke manager André Breitenreiter has carefully helped Schalke climb up the table this season, but Pep Guardiola now has the pieces that can tear Schalke apart.
Patterns may play a part in this matchday 13 showcase, but Bayern's dominance knows no bounds.
The Match (91st Meeting)
Location: Veltins Arena, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
Head: Tobias Stieler
FC Bayern: 9 W, 0 D, 0 L – 11 YC, 1 Y/R
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Television and Streaming:
US: Fox Soccer Plus, GolTV, Fox Soccer 2Go
Canada: Sportsnet World, Sportsnet World Now
UK: BT Sport 1, BT Sport Live Streaming
Germany: Sky Bundesliga 1 | HD, Sky Go, TeleClub Sport Live
FC Bayern: WWDWW
Schalke 04: LDDLL
Bundesliga: 44 W, 28 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)
Though their central midfield depth may be running a little low, Bayern have more attacking talent in one place than they have had in a long time. Guardiola may have a selection headache, but it is the type of headache that a nice serving of top class forward can cure.
The biggest absence will be Thiago Alcantara, and there is no denying how damning his injury is with the team. Without him orchestrating in attacking midfield, Guardiola will either have to rely on the orchestration skills of Arturo Vidal and Xabi Alonso or play enough attacking talent in the middle of the park to make up for the loss in creativity. Breitenreiter has opted for more physical midfield players, so Guardiola may need a bruiser like Vidal to help keep possession and win the midfield battle. That means one of Bayern's forwards has to sit, a decision a midweek Champions League fixture may help make.
The good news for Guardiola is he only has two center forwards to a count for coming towards his goal. That allows him to get more creative with his defensive structure if he so chooses, pushing ball winning players up into midfield if he so chooses without a strong threat of a counterattack. Schalke has this teenager everyone seems to be talking about, but David Alaba is more than experienced enough to limit chances from the flanks.
This is a good road test for Bayern, but the Rekordmeister have a tendency of making Schalke look really bad in front of their home crowd.
Projected Lineup (4-1-4-1):
Douglas Costa – Arturo Vidal – Arjen Robben – Thomas Müller
David Alaba – Jerome Boateng – Javi Martínez – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Sven Ulreich, Holger Badstuber, Medhi Benatia, Rafinha, Joshua Kimmich, Sebastian Rode, Kingsley Coman
Out/Suspended: Juan Bernat (groin), Mario Götze (groin), Franck Ribéry (ankle), Thiago Alcantara (knee)
Unable to avoid relegation with Paderborn, Breitenreiter moved to another blue team in Nord-Rhein Westphalia and has done decently well. He has succeeded at times with the risks he has not taken rather than the ones he has, and provided a decent environment for several of Schalke's young players to thrive.
His system does not necessary suit everyone's strengths though. Leroy Sané has thrived in a relatively free role, but Max Meyer has been very average opposite him. Leon Goretzka has played very well in a central role after his injury issues, but Sead Kolasinac has not adapted well in center midfield next to him. Breitenreiter has also done his best to play as many of his strikers he can, but target men Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Franco Di Santo have not done to well creating on their own.
As a result, Schalke has stagnated their campaign progression in recent weeks. The suspension to Johannes Geis does not help, for he was one of their best players in front of defense. What was keeping them competitive was their defense, Joël Matip having the best season of his career. The fitness problems at the back disrupted the chemistry at the back something they hope changes with a fitter Matip and Benedikt Höwedes.
How Schalke come out of the gates will be interesting to watch, for they are a club that can ride momentum waves throughout a match to get the result they need.
Projected Lineup (4-4-2):
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar – Franco Di Santo
Max Meyer – Sead Kolasinac – Leon Goretzka – Leroy Sané
Dennis Aogo – Joël Matip – Benedikt Höwedes – Junior Caiçara
Bench: Michael Gspurning, Kaan Ayhan, Marvin Friedrich, Sascha Riether, Pierre Hojbjerg, Roman Neustädter, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting
Out/Suspended: Johannes Geis (suspension), Fabian Giefer, Marco Höger (knee), Matija Nastasić (achilles), Felix Platte, Sidney Sam, Atsuto Uchida (knee)
Two very different philosophies will be on display in Veltins Arena. Breitenreiter will likely try to keep his team narrow, while Guardiola will try use his forwards to pry open space in the final third. With roadblocks like Kolasinac and Neustädter, Schalke will be very hard to pull apart, but Bayern may be able to beat them in the air if the service is just right. This game will probably be closer than many expect, but that relies on the assumption Schalke 04's moral stays high enough to keep them in the match.
The Other Action
Hamburger SV vs. Borussia Dortmund (Friday, 2:30 PM ET)
VfL Wolfsburg vs. SV Werder Bremen (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
VfB Stuttgart vs. FC Augsburg (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
1. FC Köln vs. 1. FSV Mainz 05 (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Hannover 96 (Saturday, 12:30 PM ET)
Hertha Berliner SC vs. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (Sunday, 9:30 AM ET)
UEFA Champions League Opponents
Slaven Koprivnica vs. Dinamo Zagreb (Friday, 12:00 PM ET)
Panathinaikos vs. Olympiacos (Saturday, 12:30 PM ET)
FC Ingoldstadt 04 vs. SV Darmstadt 98 (Sunday, 11:30 AM ET)
|Hertha Berliner SC||6||2||4||17||15||+2||20|
|FC Schalke 04||6||2||4||16||16||+0||20|
|1. FC Köln||5||3||4||15||18||-3||18|
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||5||2||5||14||16||-2||17|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||5||1||6||18||19||-1||16|
|FC Ingolstadt 04||4||4||4||7||9||-2||16|
|SV Darmstadt 98||3||5||4||13||16||-3||14|
|SV Werder Bremen||4||1||7||13||19||-6||13|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||1||5||6||12||19||-7||8|