The Bundesliga returns after midweek DFB-Pokal action directed the attention of football fans away from the closing stages of a thrilling Bundesliga campaign.
Matchday 31 of the season provides Roger Schmidt’s Bayer Leverkusen with their second derby of the month, as Leverkusen take the short trip to the Veltins Arena as they play out-of-form Schalke. Schalke also face their second derby of the month, after hosting Borussia Dortmund in match week 29.
Crunch time for Schalke
The Royal Blues will be keen to overturn Leverkusen’s exceptional run of form as they enter the game without a win in their previous three league matches.
André Breitenreiter’s team have conceded a dismal eight goals and scored just two in their last three games, collecting just one point. After a resilient performance at home to Dortmund just two weeks ago rewarded them with a 2-2 draw, Schalke were outclassed by league leaders Bayern Munich in their previous game, losing 3-0 and holding just 33% of possession throughout a gruelling 90 minutes.
However, three points in Gelsenkirchen could take them up to fifth in the table, if Mainz and Borussia Mönchengladbach both lose their games. Regardless of where three points could take them, they will be deemed vital by Breitenreiter following their current form.
Champions League spot set for Leverkusen
A contrast in form is certainly evident between Saturdays opponents as Leverkusen enter the game in third place after their win against Frankfurt was followed by Hertha’s fall at the hands of Hoffenheim, taking Schmidt’s team into a European spot.
Leverkusen are the form side in the league at the moment, winning their previous four games with four clean sheets. The budding strike partnership between trio Chicharito, Karim Bellarabi and Julian Brandt has particularly terrorised their previous oppositions, contributing to their fantastic form in the Bundesliga.
After facing his one-match ban due to suspension, Sead Kolasinac will be in contention for the game, and is expected to replace Dennis Aogo in the starting eleven. After picking up an injury at Bayern Munich, centre back Matija Nastajic looks to be side-lined with injury for this game.
Previously suspended defenders; Andre Ramalho and Wendell look set to join the action once more as their suspension expired. There was a small doubt over the availability of Chicharito as he was forced to be substituted in the last game after sustaining a knock, the Mexican marksman took part in full training this week, and is expected to return to the pitch.
Schalke: Fährmann; Matip, Neustadter, Riether; Caicara, Højbjerg, Kolasinac, Geis; Sane, Huntelaar, Choupo-Moting.
Bayer Leverkusen: Leno; Jedvaj, Ramalho, Tah, Wendell; Aranguiz, Yurchenko; Bellarabi, Calhanoglu, Brandt; Hernandez.
Derby games are always an interesting battle as commitment and concentration levels are tested, with a fiery atmosphere expected between the two sets of supporters, both Leverkusen and Schalke will be eager to claim the three points up for grabs as the campaign comes to a close.