Bayer Leverkusen vs Schalke 04 preview: How to watch, kick off time, team news, predicted lineups and ones to watch
Photo by Leon Kuegeler via GettyImages

It's 6th versus 18th in the Bundesliga this weekend as Bayer  Leverkusen welcomes Schalke to the BayArena on Saturday afternoon.

Leverkusen were dealt a big blow in their last game, losing 3-0 away to Hertha Berlin. It was a bad performance from Die Werkself, who lacked any clinical edge and ruthlessness compared to their opponents.

The result could have been a lot worse had Hertha been more clinical with their finishing. As a result, Leverkusen will know they will need to be better if they want a win in this match. It is an important game for them, as Die Werkself are currently seven points behind 4th place Eintracht Frankfurt and just four points ahead of Borussia Mönchengladbach in 10th place.

Schalke's hopes of survival are pretty much nonexistent after yet another heavy defeat in their last match as they lost 3-0 to Mönchengladbach. 

The defeat rubbed even more salt in Schalke's gaping wound, and they would need a miracle to stay up at this stage. Even if Die Königsblauen pulls off a shock win against Leverkusen, with only seven games left of the season following this weekend, it looks like staying up is mission impossible for manager Dimitrios Grammozis and his team.

This is a must-win game for Schalke if they want any chance of somehow pulling off the greatest of escapes.

Team news

Schalke will be without Nabil Bentaleb, Nassim Boujellab, Ralf  Fährmann, Kilian Ludewig, Hamza Mendyl, Matija Nastasić, and Steven Skrzybski for the contest. Salif Sané, Mark Uth, and Gonçalo Paciência are seen as doubtful.

On the Leverkusen side, Santiago Arias, Julian Baumgartlinger, Lars Bender, Daley Sinkgraven, and Timothy Fosu-Mensah are all still injured, while winger Moussa Diaby is not included at all in the matchday squad. 

Predicted Lineups

Bayer Leverkusen: Hrádecký, Frimpong, S. Bender, Tapsoba, Wendell, Wirtz, Aránguiz, Amiri, Gray, Schick, Bailey

Schalke: Rønnow, Becker, Mustafi, Thiaw, Kolašinac, Stambouli, Mascarell, Raman, Serdar, Harit, Hoppe

Ones to watch

Leon Bailey

Having had a quiet campaign last season, Leon Bailey is finding his best form again this time around, tripling the number of assists he had from last year. 

The winger has scored six goals so far this campaign, making him Leverkusen's third-highest goalscorer. Bailey has wreaked havoc on the Bundesliga all year long, using his blistering pace and silky skills to beat defenders time and time again.

Unfortunately, he did not score or assist last time out when Leverkusen lost to Hertha. He tried his best to spark something, but Bailey's showing wasn't enough to overcome a bad team performance.

The Jamaican's mix of raw speed and technical ability will potentially be vital against Schalke, as his piercing runs could help open up the opposition, who will likely defend deep and try to get a goal on the counter attack. Bailey will also be looking to score a goal of his own, as he's not found the back of the net in any of his last four games.

Matthew Hoppe

In a dark and bleak season for Schalke, striker Matthew Hoppe has been their one true shining light.

After spending the first part of the season playing for Schalke's second team, the American made his Bundesliga debut in November. It took a while for him to settle, but Hoppe proved his worth as he scored a hat-trick against Hoffenheim in January. 

With injuries to many of Schalke's key attackers, such as Amine HaritHoppe has had to become the club's most important player going forward. Although he has not scored a goal since January, the strikers hold-up play and awareness have been vital in giving Die Königsblauen some sort of attacking outlet.

Leverkusen's defenders know that they will need to be at their best as Hoppe can score goals if given opportunities, which he proved in the aforementioned game against Hoffenheim. It will be a difficult task for the American as he'll be up against Edmond Tapsoba, but as long as Schalke doesn't leave him isolated up front, there is no reason why Hoppe can't score a goal or two.

Last time out

It was a dismal day for Schalke the last time these two teams met as Die Königsblauen lost 3-0 to Leverkusen at the Veltins-Arena.

The home side got off to a bad start in the 10th minute as defender Malick Thiaw scored an own-goal after a corner from the left-hand side. Under pressure from Aleksandar Dragović, the ball deflected off Thiaw's shoulder past Michael Langer and into the Schalke goal. 

Die Königsblauen tried their best to respond, but they lacked any sort of cutting and clinical edge, wasting many opportunities in the opposing third.

Leverkusen finally scored again in the 67th minute to secure the win. Coming from a corner like the first goal, some shocking defensive marking from Schalke allowed Julian Baumgartlinger to just guide the ball with his head towards the far post to double Die Werkself's advantage.

The away side put the icing on the cake in the 78th minute as Patrik Schick latched onto a pass from Nadiem Amiri before rifling a shot from inside the penalty area past Langer and into the bottom left-hand corner, wrapping up the result and ensuring that the three points went to Leverkusen.

How to watch

Unfortunately the match won't be broadcasted in the UK, but fans in the United States can see the game on ESPN+.