Now is a weird time for Bayern Munich. Normally, the title is wrapped up by now, for it was matchday 30 last season when they assured their 25th league title. They are nine points away this time around, and still have a tough set of opponents to vanquish before the title can be theirs.
Schalke is the first, and though their form has been inconsistent (see below), they have gotten results against the other two attacking forces in Germany – Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Those two results in recent weeks were in Veltins Arena though, and the Königsblauen have not performed well away from home this season – 17 points away as opposed to 28 points at home.
Pep Guardiola said in his press conference on Friday he would sit anybody who believes they are already champions, a stern warning against complacency. André Breitenreiter does not think hiding is useful for his young team, and if Bayern let them into the game, they might be more assured than afraid.
The Match (104th Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Referee: Tobias Welz
Bayern: 9 W, 1 D, 2 L – 12 YC
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Bundesliga: 45 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)
Ironic, how Bayern drew Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, for they are becoming their Spanish adversaries in one respect: they are doing just enough to get results. The Bayern we are currently seeing is far removed from the club that was racking up goals in September and October, but with still enough time to peak in the season, their abnormal form is acceptable.
As many clubs have shown this season, abnormal form can get the job done against Schalke too. Even if Guardiola rotates his squad, he will be able to at least get a result against the Gelsenkirchen club, for that is exactly what Thomas Tuchel did last week. Xabi Alonso is serving a suspension? No problem. Sebastian Rode – Guardiola's favorite workhorse – can step in and help Thiago control the midfield.
Where Bayern have to be a little careful is on the flanks, the area Schalke like to attack the most. Juan Bernat and Philipp Lahm will not be marking the same players either with the way Breitenreiter likes to shift his attack, but if David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich wind up teaming up again, their quickness should be able to adjust without any issues. Bayern will also be facing an organized defense, but one that does not make the best marking decisions, which means servicemen Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman could have a field day.
Guardiola has tasked himself with motivating his squad this weekend, and if a pumped-up side comes out of the tunnel at Allianz Arena, Schalke better watch out.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Douglas Costa – Thomas Müller – Kingsley Coman
Thiago Alcantara – Sebastian Rode
Juan Bernat – David Alaba – Joshua Kimmich – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Sven Ulreich, Serdar Tasci, Javi Martinez, Rafinha, Arturo Vidal, Franck Ribery, Mario Götze
Out/Suspended: Xabi Alonso (yellow card suspension), Holger Badstuber (ankle), Jerome Boateng (groin), Arjen Robben (groin)
Schalke continues to be the most underperforming club in the Bundesliga despite the fact they are in the European picture once again. Breitenreiter has had to fend off critics who doubt his coaching qualifications, but in his defense, he has a very young squad he has to try to bring to the next level.
One of the players who may have found the next level is Leroy Sané, but his glamorous first half of the season has sunk into a gloomy second. His decline got to the point that Breitenreiter was selecting Bayern reject and 2. Bundesliga talent Alessandro Schöpf instead of him, not the greatest endorsement for a player who clubs are salivating over. Sané appears to have rekindled some of that first-half form though, and with Max Meyer coming into his own and Younes Belhanda settling in, Schalke have a very interesting attack despite not having a quality striker.
A young team can sometimes overachieve if it has a solid foundation, but Roman Neustädter and Joël Matip do not provide any foundation whatsoever. They seem solid on the flanks, and Breitenreiter's defensive tactics are not bad, but the two center backs are an atrocious pair with horrible defensive instincts. Gladbach did pick apart their defense a few weeks back but didn't finish their chances, and that kind of luck is not going to happen again in Munich.
Despite their prototypical inconsistent form, they have a fighters chance of getting a result in Munich, but a lot of things have to break their way in order for that to come about.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Younes Belhanda – Max Meyer – Leroy Sané
Johannes Geis – Pierre Hojbjerg
Dennis Aogo – Roman Neustädter – Joël Matip – Junior Caiçara
Bench: Fabian Giefer, Marvin Friedrich, Matja Nastasić, Sascha Riether, Alessandro Schöpf, Erik-Maxim Choupo-Moting, Franco Di Santo
Out/Suspended: Leon Goretzka (shoulder), Benedikt Höwedes (hamstring), Sead Kolasinac (yellow card suspension), Sidney Sam (muscle tear), Atsuto Uchida (knee)
How does Schalke think they have a chance when they sat back against a reserve Dortmund side at home in a big German derby? Traveling to Munich is bound to be a nightmare if the young Königsblauen don't show up to play. Even if they do, Bayern's solid midfield options – even without the suspended Alonso – will help the Bundesliga frontrunners control the game. Schalke's poor defensive pair will allow Müller and Lewandowski to do what they do best – slip in behind the defense and score oodles of goals.
The Other Action
Hannover 96 vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (Friday, 2:30 PM ET)
Bayer 04Leverkusen vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
FC Augsburg vs. VfB Stuttgart (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs. Hertha Berliner SC (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
SV Darmstadt 98 vs. FC Ingolstadt 04 (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Borussia Dortmund vs. Hamburger SV (Sunday, 9:30 AM ET)
1. FSV Mainz 05 vs. 1. FC Köln (Sunday, 11:30 AM ET)
UEFA Champions League Opponent
Atlético Madrid vs. Granada (Sunday, 2:15 PM ET)
|Hertha Berliner SC||14||7||8||39||34||+5||49|
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||14||6||9||44||33||+11||48|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||13||6||10||40||36||+4||45|
|FC Schalke 04||13||6||10||41||40||+1||45|
|FC Ingolstadt 04||10||9||10||27||31||-7||39|
|1. FC Köln||8||10||11||29||37||-8||34|
|SV Darmstadt 98||7||11||11||32||44||-12||32|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||7||10||12||33||44||-11||31|
|SV Werder Bremen||7||7||15||39||59||-20||28|