It does not happen too often, but Bayern Munich are in a very uncomfortable position following their result at the weekend.
While opponents have picked them apart before (namely Real Madrid's 5-1 aggregate explosion in the UEFA Champions League Semifinals), Bayern have appeared invincible in Bundesliga play. Now a small shadow has crept over the club after suffering their worst demolition in nearly six years in a meaningful Bundesliga match.
The club will have to brush that side for a midweek fixture, but fortunately their match is at home, where they have dropped four points in the last season and a half, against a Schalke club that has not beaten them in over four years. They will have to tread carefully though, for the Königsblauen have allowed just six goals in their last seven matches.
The Match (90th Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Head: Bastian Dankert
FC Bayern: 3 W, 0 D, 0 L – 4 YC
Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com
Television and Streaming:
UK: BT Sport 2
Germany: Sky Bundesliga 1 | HD, Sky Go
FC Bayern: LWWWW
Schalke 04: WDWLW
Schalke 04 (1-1) Bayern Munich | Bundesliga (Veltins Arena)
S04: Benedikt Höwedes (62’)
FCB: Lewandowski (10’)
Bundesliga: 42 W, 27 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)
So what went wrong against Wolfsburg? I will let someone more qualified to tell you that. The worrisome part is Pep Guardiola may be locked into similar tactics against Schalke 04, and that is not entirely by choice.
Not having an experienced fullback in the squad may force Bayern to resort to a back-three once again. The only person who could offer a different strategy is Mitchell Weiser, who has made just two Bundesliga starts which came after Bayern had secured their 24th title. Neither Holger Badstuber nor Mehdi Benatia – both of whom were recovering from injury over the Winterpause – saw the pitch in Wolfsburg. Whether Guardiola rotates them in at midweek depends on fitness questions outsiders do not know the answer to.
Designed rotation could come up front though, with Mario Götze sitting at the weekend. His ability to move in tight spaces could be exactly what Bayern need to knife through a packed Schalke defense. With Schalke's wing-backs required to support the play forward, Juan Bernat could have another spectacular match, making it increasingly more difficult for Guardiola to sit him.
The Allianz crowd could be the key to a rambunctious rebuttal for Bayern, a necessary resurgence as the fixture list picks up into a consistent, bi-weekly program.
Projected Lineup (3-4-2-1):
Mario Götze – Arjen Robben
Juan Bernat – Xabi Alonso – Bastian Schweinsteiger – Mitchell Weiser
David Alaba – Holger Badstuber – Jérôme Boateng
Bench: Pepe Reina, Mehdi Benatia, Dante, Sebastian Rode, Gianluca Gaudino, Thomas Müller, Claudio Pizarro
Out/Suspended: Philipp Lahm (ankle), Javi Martínez (knee), Rafinha (ligament tear), Franck Ribéry (muscular injury), Thiago Alcântara (knee)
Faced with the annual early season struggles, Schalke 04 has come back to be right in the thick of the Champions League race. The feeling around the club is different this time around with Roberto Di Matteo is at the helm.
The former Chelsea boss that topped Bayern in the Champions League final has the Königsblauen playing organized, methodical Fußball, maintaining the strength of the Schalke attackers while reconfiguring the defense to suit his personnel. Perhaps a three-back system is not the best in the longterm for a Bundesliga side, but with only three fullbacks on the roster and a plethora of center backs, the newly appointed manager has made the formula work.
It has worked so well that Schalke has conceded just nine goals in 11 Bundesliga matches since Di Matteo's appointment. That has resulted in 22 points, an impressive rate considering the Jens Keller lead Schalke only collected 8 points in their first six matches. Bayern loan product Jan Kirchhoff has entrenched himself as a necessary component in the starting XI, passing well enough to manage in midfield and winning the ball well enough to remain in defense.
Their defense is more critical as ever with Fabian Giefer required to step in for the injured Ralf Fährmann. Di Matteo might be without one of his in-form midfielders Marco Höger as well, although he told the club website that he hopes his thigh injury does not leave him out of the side. With so many players on the shelf as it is, Di Matteo might have to rely on some players in his youth team, which would be the types of players Bayern wants to see on the field.
Schalke will undoubtedly have a conservative approach when they take the Allianz Arena pitch, and how well they are able to stick to their game plan could determine their chances in the match.
Projected Lineup (3-4-2-1):
Max Meyer – Kevin-Prince Boateng
Christian Fuchs – Marco Höger – Roman Neustädter – Atsuto Uchida
Matija Nastasić – Jan Kirchhoff – Benedikt Höwedes
Bench: Timon Wellenreuther, Joël Matip, Marvin Friendrich, Marcel Sobottka, Leroy Sané, Sidney Sam, Tranquillo Barnetta
Out/Suspended: Kaan Ayhan (groin), Dennis Aogo (muscle issues), Julian Draxler (tendon tear), Ralf Fährmann (knee), Jefferson Farfán (cartilage), Leon Goretzka (muscle tear), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (red card), Sead Kolasinac (knee)
The Bayern team that dresses for this match will undoubtedly have something to prove against one of their longtime Bundesliga combatants. Choupo-Moting has an arguably better counterattacking ability than Bas Dost or Kevin De Bruyne do, so Guardiola will have to account for that when runs through his schemes. Omitting the meaningless Bundesliga fixtures after their title clinch, Bayern have not lost two meaningful matches in a row since the 2011 season. That is not likely to change.
Projected Score: Bayern Munich (2-0) Schalke 04
The Other Action
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. SC Freiburg (Tuesday, 2:00 PM ET)
Hannover 96 vs. 1. FSV Mainz 05 (Tuesday, 2:00 PM ET)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Tuesday, 2:00 PM ET)
Borussia Dortmund vs. FC Augsburg (Wednesday, 2:00 PM ET)
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs. SV Werder Bremen (Wednesday, 2:00 PM ET)
Hertha Berliner SC vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Wednesday, 2:00 PM ET)
1. FC Köln vs. VfB Stuttgart (Wednesday, 2:00 PM ET)
SC Paderborn 07 vs. Hamburger SV (Wednesday, 2:00 PM ET)
UEFA Champions League Opponent
Friendly: Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Dinamo Zagreb (Monday, 11:00 AM ET)
|FC Schalke 04||9||3||6||29||21||+8||30|
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||7||8||3||28||20||+8||29|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||7||5||6||30||28||+2||26|
|1. FC Köln||6||4||8||19||23||-4||22|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||4||9||5||24||23||+1||21|
|SV Werder Bremen||5||5||8||28||39||-11||20|
|SC Paderborn 07||4||7||7||21||31||-10||19|
|Hertha Berliner SC||5||3||10||24||37||-13||18|