We’re already nearing the end of the 2019-20 Bundesliga season, and the games are only increasing in importance. This weekend is no different, as Schalke 04 host Werder Bremen at the Veltins-Arena on Saturday afternoon in a crucial contest for both sides.
Schalke have arguably been the league’s worst team since the restart a few weeks ago, as they’ve lost all three of the games they’ve played, conceding nine goals in that time.
They were on the losing end once again during the week, falling to relegation candidates Fortuna Dusseldorf.
After a frantic first half, Schalke would open the scoring in the 53rd minute through Weston McKennie. A brilliant cross was whipped towards the back post, and the American managed to put it away with a diving header from close range.
However, goalkeeping issues would haunt the Royal Blues once again. A long free kick was saved by Markus Schubert, but he only managed to punch the ball straight up in the air. Rouwen Hennings pounced on the error, managing to get the ball across the line to equalize for Dusseldorf.
They would make the most of their newfound momentum, as Dusseldorf took the lead with about 20 minutes to go. Coming courtesy of another set piece, attacker Kenan Karaman was left wide open, and easily headed home from a few yards out.
Schalke pushed on in search of a late tying goal, but they were toothless going forward, and couldn’t get the job done on the afternoon. Failing to pick up points once again led to them slipping even further down the standings, and they now sit in 9th place.
Bremen did manage to get a point from their midweek matchup, but they were ultimately disappointed to not get all three.
At home against Borussia Monchengladbach, the two sides both started the game very slowly. However, things eventually kicked into gear, with chances created on either ends of the field.
Even though Bremen were the team in the relegation zone, they were the ones creating more of the goal scoring opportunities. No matter how close they came though, the Green-Whites just couldn’t break the deadlock.
They thought they were about to grab a winner in the dying minutes when Davie Selke was played through on goal, but the striker bottled it, hitting a weak shot straight at the goalkeeper.
Now, Bremen have a lot of work left to do, as they sit seven points behind the aforementioned Dusseldorf in the race for the relegation playoff spot.
Schalke are dealing with a number of injury issues, most notably star attacking midfielder Amine Harit, who’s out for the foreseeable future due to a MCL injury. It’s a similar story for Suat Serdar, who’s got a knee issue, while Benjamin Stambouli is unavailable for selection with a broken foot.
The Royal Blues also have two players listed as doubtful, as Benito Raman and Omar Mascarell haven’t fully recovered from their respective knocks, and might not be able to feature at all on Saturday.
Bremen were already dealing with enough injury issues of their own, and things have only gotten worse as Milos Veljkovic has been suspended for this game due to yellow card accumulation.
He joins the likes of Kevin Mohwald, Niclas Fullkrug, Omer Toprak, and Claudio Pizarro on the sidelines.
There is some hope for the Green-Whites, at least, as Ludwig Augustinsson might finally make his long awaited return to the team, while Kevin Vogt is back after serving his suspension against Monchengladbach.
Schalke: Schubert, Kabak, Sane, Todibo, Kenny, Schopf, McKennie, Oczipka, Caligiuri, Matondo, Gregoritsch
Werder Bremen: Pavlenka, Selassie, Vogt, Moisander, Augustinsson, Eggestein, Gross, Klaassen, Bittencourt, Sargent, Rashica
What to watch for
Who starts in goal for Schalke?
Schalke are in the midst of a full blown goalkeeping crisis, and as a result, it’s unclear who will start in goal on Saturday.
Alexander Nubel started the season as the Royal Blues number one, and was immense early on, eventually being named club captain. However, everything changed in early January, as the player announced he would be leaving Schalke when his contract expired at the end of the campaign, leaving to join rivals Bayern Munich.
His performances suffered in the following contests, as he started making uncharacteristic mistakes. That, combined with his decision to leave, led to him being dropped to the bench.
Schubert did well in the following games, but he’s been a mess ever since the Bundesliga restarted, committing some sort of error in each of the three games they’ve played. Now, supporters want him benched, and want Nubel to return to goal.
It’s unclear if they’ll get what they want. Those in charge at Schalke seem determined to make Nubel pay for his disloyalty, but keeping Schubert in goal once again is a risk that could severely cost the team.
That’s why everyone will keep an eye on the starting lineups for Saturday’s contest, as whoever plays against Bremen will likely be Schalke’s number one for the rest of the campaign.