Bayern Munich faces what looks on paper like it could be the first real challenge of the new Bundesliga season when they journey to the Veltins Arena to face Schalke 04 on Friday.
New Bayern manager Carlo Ancelotti got his Bundesliga career off to a strong start with his team dealing Werder Bremen a 6-0 thrashing. Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick as Philipp Lahm, Frank Ribery and even Xabi Alonso chipped in with goals in a performance that made a strong statement to any would-be challengers to Bayern’s hegemony in the German league.
Despite arguably being one of the stronger teams in the Bundesliga, Schalke haven’t won a game against Bayern since December of 2010. Schalke’s new manager Markus Weinzieri is under no illusions regarding the difficulty in store for his side as the Bavarians come to town.
“They’re a top team, they do not show any weaknesses against Dortmund or in the league against Bremen,” said the coach to the press earlier this week. “So it’ll be a challenge. We have to try to score.”
Schalke will be hoping for a quick rebound after losing their opening round fixture 1-0 away to Eintracht Frankfurt. Despite dominating possession and virtually matching Frankfurt for shots, both on-target and off, the Royal Blues were unable to find a way through at the Commerzbank Arena, despite the home side going down a man in the second half.
Weinzieri will need a much-improved performance from his team if they are to have any chance against Bayern. Ironically for a team that’s top-loaded with high-wattage attackers like Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Maxim Choupo-Moting and Breel Embolo, it could be a defender Schalke could look to in order to make the difference against Bayern.
Center-back Benedikt Howedes has scored three of Schalke’s last six goals against Bayern and having started against Frankfurt, should be fit to face the defending champions. Whether he can get a goal or not, Howedes is going to have his hands full marshaling Schalke’s defense against a Bayern attack that remains one of the most formidable in Europe.
Even with the likes of Arjen Robben, Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman all working their way back from injuries, Ancelotti can still call on the likes of Thomas Muller, Ribery, Lewandowski and Julian Green to man the attack against Schalke.
Meanwhile, on the defensive end, Bayern have yet to give up a goal in a competitive match under Ancelotti. So while it’s not mission impossible for Schalke, Weinzieri will need to get more out of his team than we’ve yet seen from them this season if they are to have any chance of pulling off a result against Bayern. However, one ace in the hole Schalke may have is their manager.
While it’s been over five years since Schalke beat Bayern, Weinzieri’s Augsburg dealt the Bavarians a 1-0 defeat in May of 2015 and came within 13 minutes of beating them again a few months later – were it not for a controversial penalty converted by Muller.
If the 41-year-old Weinzieri can be as lucky against Ancelotti as he was against the Italian’s predecessor Pep Guardiola, Bayern could find themselves with a game on their hands.
Watch Schalke 04 taking on Bayern Munich this Friday September 9 at 2:30pm ET on Fox Sports 1.