Schalke 04 will be looking to bounce back from the rollicking in Revierderby as they host strugglers Augsburg at the Veltins-Arena early on Sunday.
Bundesliga may have given respite to football fans all around the world by becoming the first big league to resume proceedings. But, the two clubs scheduled to meet at the Veltins-Arena on Sunday have had anything but a smooth ride the past few gameweeks.
Schalke have slipped from being top 4 contenders to fighting for the sixth spot while Augsburg have been drawn into the relegation battle; both thanks to a long run of delinquent results in contrast to their form early on.
Despite Schalke’s recent struggles in front of the goal, they remain an exciting team to watch. As for Augsburg, their new manager wasn’t there on the sidelines when Bundesliga returned last gameweek after breaking quarantine rules in a bizarre toothpaste incident. The club will be hoping Heiko Herrlich is able to coach his side on Sunday.
On paper, Schalke have Augsburg beat, both on the basis of history and in terms of the table. But, the two clubs come into the game with almost an identically harrowing run of results, desperate to end the streak on Sunday. Let’s take a closer look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
The Revierderby piled on more than just the misery from the result as Amine Harit and Jean-Clair Todibo both picked up injuries and are sidelined for the match against Augsburg. Omar Mascarell and Benjamin Stambouli will continue to miss the action, but the latter is closer to a return than expected. Ozan Kabak rounds up all the guaranteed absentees for the Sunday fixture.
Markus Schubert has taken over from Alexander Nubel as the first-choice goalkeeper at Schalke after the latter’s howlers and his decision to agree to a pre-contract to move to Bayern Munich in the summer. Jonjoe Kenny and Bastian Ozcipka will be tasked with guarding the flanks, with Matija Nastasic and Salif Sane the likeliest centre-back pairing for Schalke.
There is a ray of sunshine in terms of squad news, with Daniel Caligiuri and Suat Serdar both available for selection against Augsburg. The two are likely to slot straight into the four-man midfield, with Caligiuri on the right and Serdar one of two central midfielders. Weston McKennie and Alessandro Schopf will round up the midfield for Schalke.
Interestingly, Michael Gregoritsch is on loan from Augsburg with a permanent move clause embedded in his deal, which allows him to play against his parent club. Gregoritsch should start as one of the two forwards on Sunday, with Benito Raman completing the starting lineup.
Rabbi Matondo, Ahmed Kutucu and Guido Burgstaller are potent attacking options off the bench if push comes to shove.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Schubert; Kenny, Sane, Nastasic, Ozcipka; Caligiuri, McKennie, Serdat, Schopf; Raman, Gregoritsch
It’s curtains for Simon Asta for the 2019-20 season after the 19-year-old tore his ACL. Andre Hahn and Alfred Finnbogason are both close to returning to action. There is good news as well, with captain Daniel Baier back from suspension and available for selection.
Tomas Koubek is likely to lose his place to Andreas Luthe in Augsburg goal. Raphael Framberger should lose his spot on the right side of the back four to Stephan Lichtsteiner. Tin Jedvaj, Felix Uduokhai and Philipp Max are likely to constitute the back four against Schalke.
Baier will come back and partner Rani Khedira in midfield, with the trio of Marco Richter, Eduard Lowen and Ruben Vargas stationed in front of them in a 4-2-3-1 setup. Florian Niederlechner has been the star for Augsburg upfront, along with defender Philipp Max, and will lead the frontline against Schalke on Sunday.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Luthe; Lichtsteiner, Jedvaj, Uduokhai, Max; Baier, Khedira; Richter, Lowen, Vargas; Niederlechner
1. Augsburg have lost their last five away matches in the Bundesliga.
2. Schalke are on an 8-match winless streak in the Bundesliga.
3. Augsburg haven’t managed a win on their last 8 league visits to Schalke.
4. Schalke haven’t scored in 6 of their last 8 matches while Augsburg are without a goal on their last 4 away trips.
5. Florian Niederlechner has failed to find the back of the net in his last 6 league appearances for Schalke.
Player to Watch
The 32-year-old recovered from a knee problem and is likely to slot straight into the starting eleven. Caligiuri might not be a prolific winger. But, his work rate and contribution on both ends of the pitch just make Schalke stronger overall. The German midfielder will look to spur his team on to a good result against Augsburg, who are struggling themselves.
Caligiuri’s work-rate would be crucial in breaking down Augsburg and preventing a leak in the Schalke defence, something that has occurred way too many times to everyone’s liking in the last few league matches.
Schalke 04 3 – 1 Augsburg
Historically speaking, Augsburg do not have a good record at Schalke and on paper, the home side does have the better squad by all means. Augsburg and Schalke have both struggled to trouble the scorekeepers and there are generally two things that happen when two sides in this type of form meet.
While there is a chance that this could be a stalemate or a boring fixture, we are likely going for the other option and tipping this to be a highly entertaining game with end-to-end action. Schalke though, have the better squad and with a couple of players returning, should arrest their rut and go back to winning ways on Sunday.