Bundesliga Friday Preview: Hoffenheim Host Schalke
The Bundesliga returns after a rather slow period of European Championship qualifying matches and various international friendlies. The third round of Bundesliga matches kicks off with a mouth-watering tie featuring an in-form Hoffenheim against a pointless Schalke side. While at first glance many will put their money down on a Hoffenheim win against what is a struggling Schalke side, but it isn’t so clear cut.
Schalke, who finished in second place last year and were within touching distance of the title, don’t look at all like the team who very nearly beat Bayern Munich to the Bundesliga summit last season. The sale of Heiko Westermann to Hamburg has been the one clear error on Magath’s part, who then signed Real Marid’s Christoph Metzelder as a replacement for the German international – a replacement only in position, however. Magath also looked to bolster his attack this summer, and signed three extremely impressive players – at least on paper. Spain and Real Madrid legend Raul has joined the club, but has made little impact thus far. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Jose Manuel Jurado have also made their way to Schalke, and will likely make their debuts this weekend. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has been in stellar form for his national side, where he has scored five goals in the two appearances he made this week. A Raul/Huntelaar combination up top for Schalke will likely prove lethal, as long as players like Jurado and Farfan can provide service for the strikers. Schalke will likely lineup as follows:
Neuer – Howedes, Matip, Metzelder, Sarpei – Kluge, Jones, Schmitz – Jurado – Huntelaar, Raul
A back-line without Uchida means that Howedes, who usually fills in at center-half, will likely play at right-back. Veteran defender Hans Sarpei could feature at left-back, and that means that Schalke will be very vulnerable down the flanks if Hoffenheim break at speed.
Hoffenheim head coach Ralf Rangnick will look to continue the club’s recent good form with a home win against Schalke, and Rangnick will know it’s all very achievable if he can keep the players focused and determined. Rangnick will likely field a very attacking lineup, and will look to take the game to Schalke. New signing Gylfi Sigurdsson could make his debut tomorrow as well, and will look to immediately impress and affirm himself in the Hoffenheim starting eleven.
Starke – Beck, Simunic, Vorsah, Eichner – Sigurdsson, Luiz Gustavo, Salihovic – Mlapa, Ibisevic, Ba
Obasi and Jaissle will miss out due to injury, but Hoffenheim might still have enough to grab the three points.