Bayern Munich started the new year as they ended the last one, with a dominant win over Hertha Berlin proving that Hans-Dieter Flick’s men aren’t stopping anytime soon. As they keep their march towards the Bundesliga title, they face their first real threat of 2020 facing off against an in-form Schalke side. David Wagner’s men shocked Borussia Monchengladbach last weekend, showcasing enough tenacity to see off a win. Heading into the Allianz Arena with confidence, this rock-solid side could be a thorn at the Bavarians side on Saturday.
Story Behind The Game
Bayern seems to have that ruthless aura back in their side, as they continued their brilliant winning momentum with another clinical performance in the first post-winter break fixture. Now playing their first home game of 2020, they’ll be intent on maintaining this blistering run.
Schalke might’ve looked a bit shaky before the Christmas break, but now look a well-oiled machine once again. Wagner’s clearly worked on a few things to make them more compact, effective going forward and they’ll aim to continue this effective stride for a longer period.
But the Royal Blues have an abysmal record against the defending champions, with the Bavarians having won all their last five meetings with the side in emphatic fashion. The last time they faced off earlier in the season, Bayern picked up a thumping 3-0 win to showcase their dominance.
That being said, it’s even more important to get a big win this time around. They’re four points behind league leaders RB Leipzig and any kind of slip could be disasterous for their title ambitions. They must pick up another commendable three points to keep the pressure piled on Julian Nagelsmann’s side.
Schalke will be gunning for revenge after being humiliated earlier this season. Since that wakeup call, Wagner’s side have taken major step forward to make themselves a contender for a top-four spot. In order to keep up in the race for a UEFA Champions League position, they need to grind out points at Munich to keep themselves close enough to rivals Borussia Dortmund.
The defending champions are still without defenders Niklas Sule and Javi Martinez, but Kingsley Coman is training once again after missing the Berlin game. New signing Alvaro Odriozola will be available and could make his debut on Saturday.
Schalke have some major injury troubles of their own, with centre-backs Salif Sane and Benjamin Stambouli both suffering from issues. Armine Harit and Winston McKennie are also nursing injuries, meaning Wagner could be without his prized assets once again at the weekend.
Bayern Munich: Neuer, Pavard, Boateng, Alaba, Davies, Kimmich, Thiago, Muller, Coutinho, Perisic, Lewandowski
Schalke: Schubert, Kenny, Kabak, Nastasic, Oczipka, Serdar, Mascarell, Caliguiri, Burgstaller, Raman, Gregoritsch
Robert Lewandowski vs Ozan Kabak
Robert Lewandowski continued his goal-scoring heroics with a customary goal against Hertha Berlin. But with Timo Werner having sped away in the Golden Boot race, there’s need for the Polish striker to turn things up a notch. He now needs to score multiple goals in games to outscore the German and aims to do so against Schalke. But Ozan Kabak isn’t one to back down. The young Turkish defender is a rock-solid customary, banging in strong challenges and being difficult to beat inside the final third. Lewandowski must bring his A-game to outwit Kabak and give his side the edge.
Suat Serdar vs Joshua Kimmich
With two young German midfielders facing off each other, sparks are guaranteed to fly on Saturday. Suat Serdar’s having an exceptional breakthrough season under Wagner, being a tenacious figure in midfield and effective going forward. Joshua Kimmich is a complete package, but has a tough job in keeping his fellow countryman contained. This should be a back and forth effort which could decide the middle battle, as Serdar will definitely trouble Bayern with his surging runs and defensive work. Kimmich will aim to run the show from deep as usual, as this midfield battle is one Joachim Loew should keep a close eye on.