The wait for the return of the highly anticipated Bundesliga is almost over as the heavyweights start their preparation ahead of an enticing season once again. The 4th Official will take a closer look at the profiles of few of the Bundesliga giants and explore the team and their chances of making it big this season.
First up is FC Schalke from Gelsenkirchen!
Schalke have been regular Bundesliga stalwarts over the years but have never managed to win the Bundesliga since its inception in 1963. However, Schalke were crowned Die Deutscher-meister seven times before the foundation of the Bundesliga. With the back of a strong home support, a stadium class apart with 60,000 seats filling in every week, the fans always expect a heavy show and of course! Champions League football, their standard expectation before the start of each season.
However, a series of mediocrity have stopped die Konigsblauen reaching the Champions League for consecutive seasons now. Managers like Roberto Di Matteo followed by Andre Breitenreiter got sacked by the board in space of two years.
This season, though, Schalke have replaced their business manager with Mainz’s highly successful Christian Heidel and have also called up former Augsburg manager Markus Weinzierl, the 41 old, is currently one of the best managers going around German football.
Schalke have lost two key players this year in Joel Matip, who moved to Liverpool for free in a pre-season contract along with Leroy Sane’s record-breaking move to Manchester City have axed holes in the Schalke camp. However, the club from the mining industry have secured the signing of Swiss wunderkind Breel Embolo, beating off interests by some big heavyweights such as Manchester United, RB Leipzig and many others. The 19-year-old will have a huge task of replacing Leroy Sane and sparking some magic into the weak looking Schalke attack.
Embolo is the summer arrival that has Schalke fans most excited about but Die Konigsblauen have also made some smart signings as well including Coke, the right-back who helped Sevilla to win back to back Europa League whilst they have loaned Abdul Rahman Baba from Chelsea, the 21-year-old Ghanaian fullback who played a starring role for FC Augsburg in their sensation 2014/15 campaign where they pipped Schalke to finish at fifth spot but after moving to Chelsea, the left back wasn’t really given any playing time and therefore, he’d be looking to be back at his former self in the Bundesliga. With all their fullback problems, Coke and Baba could provide decent security for Schalke.
One might argue that Schalke’s squad is a bit thin so far. An injury to either of Franco Di Santo or Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will mean Schalke having only one genuine striker upfront. However, Schalke’s backline looks decent from the off with Naldo and Howedes very well backed up by Serbian defender Matija Nastasic whilst coach Markus Weinzierl will have numerous fullback options to choose from.
We can expect a 4-2-3-1 formation from new coach Markus Weinzierl and the lineup might go as follows
Likely starting XI
Goalkeeper: Ralph Fahrmann will feature in goal, the 27-year-old goalkeeper was a living rock last season and will be looking to get his form going this season too. They also have young emerging goalkeeper Timon Wellenreuther as a backup for the goalkeeping spot which is enough to deem this position as very safely balanced.
Defense: Naldo and Benedikt Howedes are set to make a formidable defensive partnership for Schalke as Naldo, a rugged defender who also has a killer eye for goal and Howedes, on the other hand, is known for his defensive abilities will provide another dimension to the Schalke defense. The fullbacks have always been a worry for the Royal Blues in the past few season but two new fullbacks’ arrivals, the pressure should be less on Coach Markus Weinzierl.
Coke should have started as the main right back but his injury would mean Junior Caicara to play as the RB for the first phase of the season whilst Abdul Baba, Sead Kolasinac and Dennis Aogo all fighting for the LB spot, it would be interesting to see who gets the nod ahead. We roughly rate Schalke’s defense a 7/10
Midfield: With only three ‘good’ midfielders in the squad, the Royal Blues are still looking for a good midfielder in the market. Nonetheless, any new arrival would probably partner alongside Johannes Geis to form a double pivot system. Leon Goretzka could also be a tricky asset for Schalke. We rate Schalke’s midfield a 6/10
Attack: Attack should really be a worry for the Royal Blues. ‘Lord Di Santo’ was signed from Werder Bremen last summer but after scoring just two goals he terribly flopped at the Veltins Arena and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, the main striker for Schalke, isn’t getting any younger. Eric Maxim Choupo Moting, Breel Embolo and Max Meyer are the left ones and if somehow Embolo fails to deliver, Weinzierl will be in for some serious trouble. However, ruling out the traits of youngster Alessandro Schopf would only be a mistake. [Schalke’s attack scores a terrible 5/10]
One to watch out for
21-year-old midfielder Leon Goretzka would be my one to watch out for this season. The Germany youth international has shown a lot of promise over the past few years and with the Schalke midfield lacking steel, it could just be the chance that he was looking for.
One to flop
Breel Embolo In my opinion, would be one who won’t set out the standards as it is hoped he would. The 19-year-old attacking talent has been labelled as one of Europe’s hottest prospects, sure that’s an extra pressure he’d have to cope with along with his heavy price tag, the Swiss international might fail to live up to the billing.
Prediction: Somewhere from 5th to 8th come the end of the season. If I had to hit a number, it would be the fifth position. They do have a decent squad with some good players but their lack of depth might be a problem and eventually, I can see them losing out to the likes of Leverkusen, Gladbach or maybe even Wolfsburg.