Berlin (AFP) – Portuguese wonderkid Renato Sanches is in line to make his Bayern Munich debut as the Bundesliga champions go to Schalke 04 on Friday evening.
Bayern head to Gelsenkirchen fresh from starting the season in ominous fashion a fortnight ago by thrashing hapless Werder Bremen 6-0 at the Allianz Arena.
Now they will look to maintain their excellent recent record at the Veltins Arena, where Bayern have not lost since December 2010.
And as Germany warms to the cosy man management of Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti, fans will also get their first view this weekend of 19-year-old prodigy Sanches, who has now recovered from a thigh injury initially suffered at Euro 2016.
“He’s a phenomenon and he’s 100 percent fit,” Ancelotti confirmed of the former Benfica man, who helped Portugal win the European Championship, beating hosts France in the final.
Bayern’s stunning start to the campaign has raised the prospect of a repeat of the 2012-13 season, when they led the way from start to finish under Jupp Heynckes.
But Ancelotti, whose side face Rostov of Russia in their Champions League opener next midweek, warned the Bundesliga champions would need all their players over a busy season.
“The upcoming weeks are going to be tough. We play seven matches in 20 days. It would be important to start with a victory,” he said.
“I just focus on tomorrow’s game. Right after that I’ll start thinking about the Champions League match,” said Ancelotti, who will appreciate an extra day’s rest ahead of hosting last season’s Russian league runners-up.
– Gomez spearheads Wolfsburg charge –
While Sanches is set to play, Arjen Robben, Kingsley Coman and Jerome Boateng are all out injured for Bayern.
But as if it were not enough for Schalke to be facing Polish targetman Robert Lewandowski, who bagged a hat-trick against Werder, his fellow forward Thomas Mueller set up three goals in that game and netted twice in Germany’s 3-0 win over Norway in their opening 2018 World Cup qualifier last Sunday.
Schalke, who finished fifth in Germany last season, have been rebuilding over the summer under new coach Markus Weinzierl, but lost their opener 1-0 at Eintracht Frankfurt.
Borussia Dortmund also won their opener and this week travel to promoted RB Leipzig to take on the sole Bundesliga team from the former East Germany.
The signs are the goal race between Bayern’s Lewandowski and Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang that lit up last season is set to go again this term too.
The Gabonese star scored twice to Lewandowski’s three in the opening round and lost out 30 to 25 in the Bundesliga last season.
Top players Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all left Dortmund in the close season but Andre Schuerrle, Shinji Kagawa and the returning Mario Goetze, who played in both of Germany’s matches last week, should all feature at the weekend.
“I’m ready to play,” said Goetze, who rejoined over the summer after a disappointing spell at Bayern.
“But it’s up to the boss to decide that,” said Goetze, who scored the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final.
Meanwhile, Wolfsburg travel to Cologne, whose goalkeeper Timo Horn shone for the German Olympic team in Rio.
Wolfsburg won 2-0 away at Augsburg in their opener and expect to hand a debut to German international striker Mario Gomez, who joined in the summer after winning the Turkish championship with Besiktas and ending the season top scorer there.
Borussia Moenchengladbach, who visit Manchester City in their Champions League opener next midweek, must first go to promoted Freiburg.
– Fixtures (all times GMT) –
Schalke 04 v Bayern Munich (1830)
Bayer Leverkusen v Hamburg, Wolfsburg v Cologne, Ingolstadt v Hertha Berlin, Darmstadt v Eintracht Frankfurt, Freiburg v Moenchengladbach (all 1330), RB Leipzig v Borussia Dortmund (1630)
Werder Bremen v Augsburg (1330), Mainz v Hoffenheim (1530)
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