The final fixture on matchday 8 this weekend pits Bayern-conquerors FC Augsburg against Schalke at the Veltins Arena.
The Fuggerstädter grabbed all the headlines on matchday 7 with their shock 1-0 win over Bavarian rivals Bayern Munich at the WWK Arena. The win came on the back of their 1-0 win at the Weser Stadion the previous week, which had put some much-needed gloss on an otherwise dismal start to the season.
New trainer Enrico Maaßen was brought in from Borussia Dortmund II to inject new life into Augsburg’s playing style but with four losses from their opening five games, there was no style and also no substance. A switch in philosophy to a swift counterattacking unit with an ambitious set-up in the forward line saw an instant upswing in fortunes.
The question now is how do Augsburg marry Maaßen’s thoughts of how football should be played with the resources the club have to offer him. The arrival of Mergim Berisha has proved an instant hit and they are going to perhaps have to accept a lower possession percentage in return for the success they can earn on the counter.
The fact that promoted Schalke have only taken six points from the opening seven matches won’t surprise too many observers with many predicting a season of struggle for the Königsblauen based on their squad and the lack of quality arrivals in the summer.
They went down to a 1-0 defeat in the Revierderby last time out to Borussia Dortmund, but to be fair, they went for a 0-0 draw with little intent to attack so deserved what they got at the Signal Iduna Park.
The Veltins Arena crowd will demand a more positive approach at home to Augsburg. Points are going to be hard to come by this season and wins even more so and on paper they will be targeting home games against teams like Augsburg as potential sources of key points.
Defeat this weekend could see Schalke sucked into the bottom three and the relegation dogfight they are so keen to avoid.
Coach Frank Kramer will have to do without the services of Leo Greiml, Cedric Brunner, and Marcin Kaminski due to injury. Marius Bulter, Florent Mollet and Thomas Ouwejan all suffered with illness during the international break but should make recoveries in time to be selected on Sunday.
Jordan Larsson, Sebastian Polter and Rodrigo Zalazar are all pushing for a starting berth after impressive stints from the substitutes bench in recent games.
Possible line-up: Schwolow, Matriciani, van den Berg, Yoshida, Ouwejan, Krauß, Flick, Drexler, Mohr, Terodde, Bülter
The list of absentees not available to trainer Enrico Maaßen remain lengthy meaning a change to his recent winning line-up is unlikely. Felix Uduokhai, Frederik Winther, Reece Oxford, Niklas Dorsch, Dikeni Salifou, Tobias Strobl, Iago, and Noah Sarenren Bazee all remain on the treatment table so won’t be on the trip to the Ruhr.
Possible line-up: Gikiewicz, Gumny, Bauer, Gouweleeuw, Iago, Gruezo, Rexhbecaj, Hahn, Demirovic, Niederlechner, Berisha
What they’re saying:
Frank Kramer: “Our opponents are playing a different brand of football than they were in pre-season. Augsburg have adjusted their style of football after the opening five games and have shifted their focus. Now, they are playing quick and forward football, and they’re handy setting up against it as well.”
Enrico Maaßen: “The game against Schalke will be loud and uncomfortable. Both teams play very direct football. We can’t retreat an inch and we have to remain greedy for more.”
17.09.22 Borussia Dortmund (a) 1-0 L (Bundesliga)
10.09.22 Bochum (h) 3-1 W (Bundesliga)
03.09.22 VfB Stuttgart (a) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
27.08.22 Union Berlin (h) 1-6 L (Bundesliga)
20.08.22 VfL Wolfsburg (a) 0-0 D (Bundesliga)
17.09.22 Bayern Munich (h) 1-0 W (Bundesliga)
09.09.22 Werder Bremen (a) 0-1 W (Bundesliga)
04.09.22 Hertha Berlin (h) 0-2 L (Bundesliga)
27.08.22 Hoffenheim (a) 1-0 L (Bundesliga)
20.08.22 Mainz (h) 1-2 L (Bundesliga)
Due to Schalke’s relegation and season spent in the 2.Bundesliga, the corresponding fixture last time out took place on matchday 28 of the 2020-21 season.
Schalke ran out 1-0 winners thanks to a fourth minute goal from Suat Serdar in what was only their second win of the entire season! Serdar was helped by Augsburg keeper Gikiewicz dropping the ball at his feet, but on his birthday, he fired in the loose ball for what proved the winning goal.
Players to watch:
The battling qualities of Tom Krauß in midfield have already come to the fore this season as the 21-year-old has made himself an indispensable cog in the Schalke engine room. These qualities will be needed if the hosts are to grab a potentially vital three points this weekend.
The impact of Mergim Berisha at Augsburg has been instant and corresponded with their upturn in results. He bagged the winner against Bayern and will feel confident of adding to his tally against Schalke this weekend. Such has been his positive start than he’s even been mentioned as an option for Hansi Flick’s national side.