Bundesliga high flyers Schalke and Werder Bremen are set to square off at Veltins Arena, with both sides hoping to end the first part of the season on a high.
Following some impressive showings in Champions League last season and a pretty disappointing Bundesliga campaign, the Miners decided to fully focus on the league championship this term and that has produced excellent results.
While the team had no problems qualifying for the Europa League knockout stages, they have done extremely well in Bundesliga, where they now occupy the third place in the standings, just three points behind leaders Bayern Munich.
Huub Stevens’ side enter the Werder clash high on confidence, after winning last four games in all competitions, and at odds of 2.10 (11/10) offered by Unibet, backing Schalke looks like the right thing to do.
The gaffer rested most of the starters in the 3:0 win over Maccabi Haifa, meaning that star players Huntelaar, Raul and Holtby are set to return, but Farfan, Moravek, Kluge, Kenia, Hoogland and Fahrmann remain long-term worries.
Probable starting line-up (4-3-1-2): Unnerstall – Howedes, Papadopoulos, Matip, Fuchs – Jurado, Jones, Holtby – Raul – Huntelaar, Pukki.
Werder Bremen, too, have been exceeding expectations this season, especially when we take into account that the squad had undergone major changes in the summer.
The arrival of several talented youngsters as well as the return of key defender Naldo seems to have had a great effect on team’s fortunes, so I guess even coach Thomas Schaaf is surprised to see his side in fifth place, just two points behind their next opponents.
However, while Werder have been thoroughly impressive at home, where they won seven and lost one game this season, the Green and Whites are largely struggling on the travels and that doesn’t give them much reason for optimism before the Schalke clash.
After conceding nine goals in their last two away games, Werder just cannot be trusted to win this game, even if Stan James pays 3.80 (14/5) on away win.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Aaron Hunt are both suspended, whereas Marko Marin, Naldo and Aleksandar Ignjovski are all injury doubts.
Sebastian Boenisch, Tim Borowski, Mehmet Ekici, Aleksandar Stevanovic and Predrag Stevanovic are all sidelined.
Probable starting line-up (4-3-1-2): Wiese – Ignjovski, Wolf, Naldo, Schmitz – Fritz, Bargfrede, Trinks – Marin – Pizarro, Rosenberg.