The opening of the 2016/2017 Bundesliga season is now only a day away, the prolonged break from top flight entertainment has fans drooling with excitement coming into the new season.
Eintracht Frankfurt face a reinforced FC Schalke 04 in their first game of the season, which is set to be a testing game for the home team who only just avoided relegation in the 2015/2016 campaign.
The summer transfer market has been fruitful for Schalke head coach Markus Weinzierl, making nine transfers in total with big names such as Naldo and Breel Embolo included to make up for the loss of several players, one being club favourite Leroy Sane.
Similarly, Eintracht Frankfurt head coach Niko Kovac has made moves to reinforce his side coming into the season. However, due to the lack of comparable investment loan moves has been the clubs port of call. Notably, two Real Madrid youth prospects Jesús Vallejo and Omar Mascarell have been brought in, and are set to make their home debut with the club this weekend.
Frankfurt a robust opponent
One of the teams that have served as a difficulty to Schalke in the past has been Eintracht Frankfurt, managing two wins, one loss and a draw in the past two seasons. Despite their record against the side being a mixed bag overall, Frankfurt came out of last season only just gripping onto their spot in the top flight, going on an eight game losing streak before winning at home to Borussia Dortmund in the second from last game of the season. Meaning that a strong start this season will be required to fully get over that dangerous period.
FC Schalke will also be under pressure to have a strong start of the season, with fans demanding another top four finish after last season.
The DFB Pokal is the most recent piece of action that both teams have featured in, Schalke breezed a 4:1 victory over 6. Liga side FC 08 Villingen whilst Frankfurt only just managed a win over 1.FC Magdeburg, which went all the way to a penalty shootout.
Eintracht will have something to prove now, as struggling to win against a third division side wouldn’t have been the first impression that Kovac wanted to give going into the new season.
Weinzierl well prepared for Frankfurt
“I feel a great sense of anticipation for the new season”, said new the new head coach ahead of his first Bundesliga game with the Royal Blues. After the intensive pre-season and the victory against FC 08 Villingen last weekend, the 41-year-old is well focused on the upcoming season opener against Frankfurt: “I’m optimistic that we’ll start the season well”. He highlighted: “We have prepared well for Frankfurt.”
Weinzierl also emphasized the difficulty of judging the opponent in the first match week, stating: “On the first Matchday it’s always tough to judge the opposition. You don’t really know how they’re doing.” Nevertheless Weinzierl knows what he wants from the game: “We want to play to our limit and exploit Frankfurt’s weaknesses which we’ve identified.”
S04 have managed to avoid major injuries coming into the season, Weinzierl confirmed this: “Except for the players who are suffering long-term injuries, all of the players are fit,” commented the head coach. However, he didn’t reveal which players he would use at the weekend: “No players are guaranteed to start as we have to be successful as a team. We’ll decide on Saturday how we’ll play.”
Leon Goretzka however is unlikely to take part in the game. The midfielder has trained for the first time with the team since his shoulder injury. “Leon is making good day to day progress and we’ll see if he’s ready to play,” confirmed the head coach.
Frankfurt head coach Niko Kovac is yet to comment on the game, which kicks off tomorrow at 14:30.
Injuries plague Frankfurt, Schalke fair well
Injuries are without a doubt one of the biggest worries for a manager to deal with as the coming season gets closer, and for Kovac, this has been at the top of his agenda as a number of his top players are set to miss the first game of the season.
One of the more significant of them all is the central midfielder Marc Stendera, who is out with a cruciate ligament injury until March 2017. A massive blow as the young prospect featured regularly in the 2015/2016 campaign, making 26 appearances in total.
Sadly, centre-back Marco Russ was diagnosed with testicular cancer earlier on this year which means he will also miss out on a large majority of the season. However, two defensive players getting loaned in will sure cover the void left by his time out.
The only two injuries that Weinzierl has had to deal with is Coke’s cruciate ligament, which is a slightly bitter blow giving that he only signed for the club a month ago. Fortunately for Weinzierl the right back position is covered, with Júnior Caiçara and Atsuto Uchida both available.
Eintracht Frankfurt: (4-2-3-1) Hradecky; Varela, Abraham, Hector, Oczipka; Mascarell, Hzusti; Blum, Meier, Gacinovic; Seferovic.
Schalke 04: (4-2-3-1) Fahrmann; Júnior Caiçara, Höwedes, Naldo, Baba; Geis, Aogo; Embolo, Meyer, Choupo-Moting; Huntelaar