The reverse fixture in Gelsenkirchen was a tense affair for Bayern Munich, but luckily Robert Lewandowski and Joshua Kimmich (and Javi Martinez) came to the rescue. The defending champions have gotten by on moments of individual brilliance, and they may have to again against a solid defense.
Here are some things to watch in Bayern’s game against Schalke on Saturday.
Arturo Vidal (and even Thiago) back in the team
The two midfielders missed the trip to Bremen, but they trained the entire week. Carlo Ancelotti said that they are in good condition, which is a very welcome sign for a midfield that has struggled to build up the play in 2017. Both could very well start since Joshua Kimmich is out with an illness and Xabi Alonso has played a full 90 minutes in each of Bayern’s first two games since the break.
The enigmatic Thomas Müller
It’s hard to ignore the fact that Bayern’s best performance of the season, against RB Leipzig before the winter break, came about when Müller was on the bench. If both Vidal and Thiago are indeed ready to go, that could mean that Müller is the one who draws the short straw. He had one shot in the two games against Freiburg and Bremen combined, and considering how solid Schalke’s defense is, Bayern may be better off leaving Müller out of the side on Saturday.
Philipp Lahm’s 500th game
You know when you’re getting old as a footballer when you have tallied a half millennium of appearances. Bastian Schweinsteiger reached the 500 game mark just before he left for Manchester United, and now Lahm will do the same as he considers the end of his footballing career. Fitting that, like Schweinsteiger’s 500th, it will come in the Allianz Arena, where his loyal fans can properly applaud him for his career milestone.
Kingsley Coman’s potential involvement
He got a little taste off the bench against Werder Bremen, so the next step would be for the French forward to see some extended game action. He could be involved right from the get-go with Franck Ribery out with an injury, but Douglas Costa has already proven more than capable of filling Ribery’s shoes. Still, Ancelotti may have to prepare on another long Ribery absence, and a team that plays with three defenders, like Schalke does, might be a good situation to give Coman a strong look.
Markus Weinzierl’s body language
A report in Tuesday’s edition of Sport Bild suggested that the Schalke players are not happy with Weinzierl’s team leadership and that he has a “soft line of approach”. Christian Heidel has insisted Weinzierl has the complete backing of Schalke’s higher-ups, but that does not hide the fact that Schalke are in the bottom half of the table. The way the first-year coach carries on the sideline in arguably the toughest game of his tenure could indicate how strong of a chance his team has to stay in the game.