Schalke, currently sitting at the top of the Bundesliga, have surged ahead to the peak of another, less prestigious table – the goalkeeper injury table. First choice keeper Manuel Neuer has yet to make an appearance this season, having broken his fifth metatarsal during a pre-season friendly against SpVgg Erkenschwick (currently playing in the equivalent of Germany’s sixth tier). Thankfully teams are prepared for these kind of eventualities by keeping reserve keepers on hand. The hope is that in the absence of the usual no. 1, that the man who takes his place between the sticks won’t do more harm than good. That is the situation Mathias Schober, Hansa Rostock’s former first choice goalkeeper, currently finds himself in at Schalke. He’s been doing a great job, too, conceding only once so far (against Torsten Frings and Bremen) this Bundesliga season. I say Bundesliga season because the 4-0 thrashing by Atletico Madrid in the Champions League qualifying tie wasn’t a stellar performance, but it doesn’t seem to have impacted his domestic form.
Now Mathias Schober is off to see team doctor Bernd Brexendorf and his team of physiotherapists after picking up the injury in training. The diagnosis is not good. Schober will be out at least two to three weeks due to a torn left calf muscle. He will definitely miss this week’s clash against Revierderby rivals Dortmund and the following weeks’ games against Frankfurt and Köln. At the absolute earliest he might be available to play Wolfsburg on matchday 7. The problem is Schober’s opportunity to cement his position as Schalke’s new no. 1 will likely have passed by then because Manuel Neuer has already begun light training this week. While it is unlikely that he will be declared fit in time for Saturday’s game, his return will almost certainly coincide with Schober’s absence. Even an unfit Manuel Neuer should have little to worry when it comes to competing with the third choice keeper for playing time. But who’s left to play goal this week (and possibly longer if Neuer’s recovery should suffer an unfortunate setback)?
Two 19-year olds are the only remaining fit first team goalkeepers at Fred Rutten’s disposal. The first is Mohamed Amsif, a German-born Moroccan who only signed a professional contract earlier this May. The more likely choice, however, is Chemnitz-born Germany Under-21 international Ralf Fährmann. Last year he started 28 games for Schalke 04 II, keeping a clean sheet 14 times. Now the level of competition he’ll be facing is vastly greater than the Oberliga foes he faced, but the biggest challenge will be staying healthy.
What do you think, will Schalke be able to draw or defeat their rivals Dortmund this week with an untested 19-year old in goal?