Preview: FC Bayern – Schalke 04

Only a few week ago these two teams have met already. Holger Badstuber again returns to his old home. This game will decide, which team advances to the next round of the DFB Pokal. Author: Justin • Translator: Michael

In our preview from a few weeks ago we’ve talked about Schalke facing issues when they’re in possession. They don’t create enough chances, rarely break into the final third and seem a little bit static in their play.

However, this is only a problem against 16 Bundesliga sides for the Royal Blues. What we’ve suspected in the preliminary report was confirmed in the Bundesliga duel. If Weinzierl’s XI doesn’t have to make the play, they’re more dangerous.

(Graphic: Michael Böck)

Scouting report

This is especially based on their ability to defend. Schalke are very compact in a 5-2-3 formation, but still very flexible. They also close spaces quickly due to their immense running. Only five teams in the league have conceded less goals than Schalke. Even without Naldo there were less problems against the ball.

Team comparison

Badstuber has done a solid job so far and gets increasingly involed in their build-up. Höwedes benefits from the coverage in his half-defender position and is able to frequently push forward. Nastasic is also doing a good job. Lewandowski will have a tough time trying to get in behind the defence again.

Schalke’s compact 5-2-3 covers the centre efficiently as well as still being very stable out wide. It can easily be changed into a 3-4-3, 5-4-1 or 5-3-2.

Bayern will have to get their striker involved and support him. Against Hamburg Thomas Müller displayed his best performance in quite some time. Although Hamburg offered more space than Schalke will, it should still give him a confidence boost. Together with Thiago pushing forward, Bayern could provide valuable support.

It’s a very important aspect to keep the record champion’s wingers quiet, as Schalke have shown in the Bundesliga already. Arjen Robben had 53 touches, but only managed a 73% passing accuracy. Two shots on target, one key pass and only a single successful take-on underline a rather dull performance.

Douglas Costa created slightly more (three key passes, two shots on target, two successful take-ons), otherwise the Brazilian was covered well, too. He also managed a below-average passing accuracy of 70%.

Bayern occupied the half-spaces so poorly, that both wingers didn’t have any alternatives. Additionally, there was a lack of creativity to give both of them some space.

Here Thomas Müller could take up an important role. Last time he had to assume too many of Thiago’s tasks, which he was simply overwhelmed by. However, the Spaniard is back and could play in and around the attacking centre with the forward.

This wouldn’t only lessen the wing focus, it’d also provide a better occupation of space. Müller’s runs could create some room for Robben as well. His involvement against a strong defence will be pivotal.

Bayern either have to support their wingers with more personell in tight spaces (highlighted in red) or shift to the other side quickly (highlighted in green).

Against Hamburg, as well as Mainz and Wolfsburg one has seen, that an attacking setup is infusing that extra load of pace into Bayern’s game.

Even if we campaigned for more game time for young players in a comment it’s probably best, if Ancelotti barely changes the Hamburg eleven.

At most an appearance from Kimmich against the massive defence of Schalke would make sense. Vidal is playing better in zones up forward than he is in the defensive midfielder space. Here it’d make sense to position Kimmich slightly deeper than Thiago to offer an option, that’s very strong in the build-up.

In the game between Schalke and Hoffenheim one could notice, that the Royal Blues especially won possession, when the side of Nagelsmann didn’t have enough passing options in midfield.

The longer a Hoffenheim player had the ball, the more effective Schalke’s setup looked. Bayern will have to show up with structure of the best sort.

An effective tool could be long balls. Hoffenheim repeatedly got in behind Schalke’s defence with chipped passes. Hummels can make those passes even from distance.

Because of their back-three, Schalke’s centre-backs dare to move into midfield at times. If Bayern are clever, one attacker could draw out one half-defender of the visitors. Subsequently, Lewandowski would be predestined to make a run into the opening gap.

Müller and Thiago could try to create some spaces for Lewandowski. Hummels has the ability to make the passes into the aforementioned spaces.

Easy losses of possession should be avoided and in tight space it’ll be crucial to offer several options for the teammate. Fluid ball circulation should have the highest priority, which also demands patience.

That’s where Vidal has some drawbacks. Lately, the Chilean revealed a lot of small and a few big mistakes in his passing. Instead of Kimmich, Alonso should become an option again, too.

The Spaniard isn’t overly effective against the ball anymore, however, he’s shown improved performances with the ball. His vertical play provided improvement in Berlin and would surely be helpful against Schalke as well.

On top of that, with his diagonal passes the veteran possesses a quality, that’d be important to pull apart the back-five of the visitors.

Thiago is a given as a starter. The 25-year old isn’t only valuable when it comes to supporting the attackers, he’s decisive in the counter-pressing. A few weeks ago Schalke were able to play through Munich’s press too often.

Bayern’s number 6 was sorely missed everywhere. If the Spaniard is playing, the counter-pressing is usually effective and stable. Without him, it didn’t always look good. With Bentaleb and Goretzka Schalke have two players, who can exploit the smallest gap in Bayern’s defence.

Thiago and Thomas Müller are invaluable for Robert Lewandowski. Especially against Schalke’s back-five the two will have to support the Polish international, if they play.
(Photo: Christof Stache / AFP / Getty Images)

Whatever the central personnel will look like, in comparison to the previous game, it’ll be important that the pace is high. Switching the play, vertical play between the chains, and good spacing will be the key to the next round.

Schalke are defending well, but are facing issues when the opponent is playing variable and fast. Weinzierl’s eleven is most dangerous in transition. If Bayern are defending as stable as they’ve done for the past few weeks, they should advance to the next round.

Five bold predictions

  1. Bayern are scoring at least two goals in normal time.
  2. They’ll also reach the next round.
  3. Schalke won’t score a goal.
  4. Arjen Robben will be directly involved in at least one goal.
  5. Müller scores.


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