Unlike in prior seasons where die Roten easily cruised to the domestic crown without breaking a sweat, Bayern Munich have had to put in much more effort this time around. Pep Guardiola’s men currently sit seven points ahead of Borussia Dortmund. Whilst that may seem pretty comfortable, Barcelona once enjoyed a similar lead, and now that has been cut to three and four over Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid respectively. In Italy’s Serie A, Inter, Napoli, Roma, and Fiorentina, thought that Juventus would struggle to even break into the top ten, and now they are all looking up at the Bianconeri, who now have a six point head start over their nearest Scudetto rivals.
In any case, this will not be a match that Bayern Munich will be taking lightly. However, they will be coming into this game having had to work hard to earn a 2-2 draw against Portuguese champions Benfica midweek. The Eagles, as expected, did not make life easier for the Bavarian powerhouse in a closely contested affair. In fact, were it not for Arturo Vidal’s early goal from the first leg, or had Benfica managed to convert any of their additional chances at the Estadio da Luz, it could have been another grueling extra-time game for Guardiola’s team.
With that in mind, the Spanish tactician could opt to rotate his squad, but only slightly. Given that Robert Lewandowski did not feature much in Portugal, he will likely play from the start. Franck Ribery could be given a rest. Jerome Boateng, Holger Badstuber, and Arjen Robben will all miss out due to injury. Xabi Alonso sits out as a result of a ban, meaning that Sebastian Rode will probably feature in his absence.
Meanwhile, Schalke will arrive having picked up a 2-2 draw against Borussia Dortmnund in last weekend’s Revierderby. This result will certainly have pleased Bayern Munich, as it maintained the status quo: seven points between number one and number two. A win for Thomas Tuchel’s side would have cut that to a very uncomfortable four ahead of today’s game. As for André Breitenreiter’s team, they sit in seventh, tied on 45 points with Borussia Mönchengladbach and Mainz, who occupy the Europa League spots. However, die Königsblauen want more than just that – they want Champions League football.
Still, it’s one thing to wish for something. It’s another to actually achieve it. And Schalke’s problem this season has been their inconsistency. The draw with Dortmund was a good way to bounce back after a humiliating 3-0 loss to Ingolstadt, but a win obviously would have been much better. And now, they will be taking on Bayern Munich, a side they have not beaten in Bundesliga action since December 4, 2010.
To complicate matters, Schalke arrive at the Allianz Arena at squad decimated by injuries. In addition to skipper Benedikt Howedes, Fabian Giefer, Marco Hoger, Atsuto Uchida, Leon Goretzka, Sidney Sam, and Nemanja Nastasic are all out or in doubt due to varying fitness problems, whilst the combative Sead Kolasinac has picked up too many bookings and is serving a suspension as a result.
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