Preview: FC Schalke 04 – FC Bayern

Another 90 minutes, then the first English week under Niko Kovač will be over. Confident victories against Leverkusen and in Lisbon provide an excellent starting position. But there is no time to get too excited. Author: Justin • Translator: Dennis

Schalke 04 was unable to bring the runner-up euphoria into the new season. Or was it too much euphoria? In the Bundesliga Schalke is on the penultimate place in the table after three games. Sounds like a feast for FC Bayern, doesn’t it?

Tedesco’s second year

On Tuesday Schalke wanted to take the first step in the right direction. They hosted FC Porto. An opponent who can and wants to play football. Finally a team that could play Schalke a little more into the cards. No one was as tense and motivated as Domenico Tedesco. It’s also an important season for the coach.

The 33-year-old is always very active on the sidelines. He also gave instructions against Porto and tried to influence the team and the referees in every scene. Schalke fought, Schalke ran, Schalke tried everything so as not to get exposed in the back. It wasn’t a treat for the eyes, but it was a first step forward in the defensive order.

In the middle of the first half, Tedesco’s team won a not too important duel on the side line. Tedesco applauded wildly, ran determinedly in the direction of the offensive and wanted to take his players with him. But it’s FC Porto who get the throw-in. Tedesco stops, looks at the linesman in disbelief and grim. His face says more than all the words he will say that evening.

Schalke is also struggling with the external factors these days. Unhappy referee decisions complicate the start of the season, which is complicated enough due to the internal factors alone. Two controversial penalty kicks were called against them on Tuesday alone. In the end it’s only enough for a 1:1.

During the last season Tedesco was praised many times over. His team provided the best defensive of the league after Bayern and Stuttgart – 37 goals against are indeed a decent value. Mostly Schalke moved very compact in 5-3-2, 5-2-3 or 5-4-1 formations. The match situation and opponents determined which formation Tedesco opted for and when his players should press.

Tedesco focuses on the transition moments. There Schalke should make the right decisions as quickly and correctly as possible and take advantage of them in just a few seconds. He never gets tired of emphasizing that the right moment is important in pressing.

In the interview with Spielverlagerung.de he focused on the following questions: “What is the trigger for pressing? Which passes by the opponent are to be perceived as a pressing signal? There would also be general triggers, “but that already varies strongly from opponent to opponent”, says Tedesco.

During the first compulsory games the pressing moments were often not right. Tedesco’s efforts on the sidelines have felt multiplied again. Again and again he gives loud instructions to keep his team in order. Too often individual players press, although the trigger was not given from the coach’s point of view. The timing is noticeably worse than last year.

It’s also exciting that Schalke will be confronted with their own weaknesses much more effectively this season. So far, the team has had great problems with organising the game.

Königsblau has great difficulties, especially in the position of the six and in the structure of the game. Often the distances are huge, the midfield not well occupied and so it happens that the ball stays in possession for minutes without gaining space.

Rudy should be able to remedy this in the future. The new arrival from FC Bayern has the opportunity to prove himself as an important link and creative playmaker from the depths. So far he has not succeeded, but the change from the Bayern’s positional game to Tedesco’s football is not easy. Especially since the opponents were able to adjust to the new focus on Rudy.

It’s a fact that Tedesco now has to prove himself as the tactician the public likes to portray him as. He has earned his advance praise with a strong defensive tactic. Now, however, his team must take the next step and develop in possession of the ball. The two transition moments are worth a lot. But if the opponent has no interest in playing along to Schalke’s matchplan with offensive football, then creative alternatives are needed.

He will have to find solutions for the playmaker Rudy. In Hoffenheim, he was the pace-setter that Bayern could only marvel at for a short time and that Schalke now needs. At the record champion he lost his qualities also because he was not integrated according to his strengths. Rudy needs a suitable role for himself more than many other players.

Tedesco is a young coach and has shown himself capable of criticism so far. This could help him to stabilise Schalke again. He is now going into his second season. How successful this will be depends above all on how quickly he can question and expand his own ideas. Only with defensive football will he not be as successful in the coming months as he was in the first year.

Tedesco is currently often unhappy when his team enters the pressing phases.
(Photo: Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images)

FC Bayern: No time for joy

FC Bayern celebrated their next victory on Wednesday – in comparison to Schalke it is a different world. Also the newcomer with the number 35 was celebrated nicely. Renato Sanches seems to have disposed of his first season in Munich by now. It is a new beginning for him. With new self-confidence he dares his second attempt, which began on Wednesday evening with his first start of the season.

Sanches was convincing. He even scored and visibly enjoyed the reactions from all sides. Not only his teammates and coaches showered him with affection, also the sensitive audience in Lisbon applauded for the former Benfica player.

But that had to be over again on Thursday. In Munich you don’t have time to be happy about partial successes. “You don’t win at FC Bayern so that you can be happy about the victory, but so that you have your peace on Sunday”, said Müller in conversation with The Players’ Tribune.

Nothing has been achieved yet. The record champion has made a confident start to the season – that’s the calm news of the first weeks of Kovač, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.

And yet it is clearly noticeable in Munich that there is a hint of satisfaction. Kovač rotates in its first English week, making many right decisions. Without Thiago, the big question in Lisbon was whether FC Bayern would be able to counter it with sufficient play.

That succeeded. It was remarkable how Sanches, together with James and Martínez, ensured control. Here and there the last sharpness in the actions of the Bavarians was missing, but all in all it seemed very well thought out, planned and wanted. Positional play and structure are recognizable, the ball circulation looked really good in many phases. Also because the team supports each other, forms triangles and overloads the half spaces as strongly as in the best times.

But there are also other phases. Then the Reds seem a little less concentrated, playing easy bad passes. This cannot and must not be ignored. The demands are too high for that. Not always the individual class can save such narrow situations.

Which approach against Schalke?

Against Benfica they saw another approach, which should be very exciting for the future. Bayern played a lot in possession of the ball. In the longer phases with the ball, they were always able to increase the pace and create danger. That’s how most of the chances and the two goals came about – in the best Guardiola manner.

But in many phases FC Bayern also let themselves drop deeper. Under Ancelotti there were such moments to observe as well. But this was always associated with a loss of control. The Bayern team did not manage to control their opponent without the ball and stumbled from action to action. When FCB was not in possession of the ball, there was always the feeling that an opponent was scoring at any given moment.

That feeling was only present in Lisbon between the 27th and the 32nd minute. Once Benfica came very dangerously in front of Neuer’s goal. Otherwise, however, the team was very stable and secure. Dominance with and without ball alternated and one was always master of the situation.

If one wants to be that also in duels with bigger teams, one needs still more precision and concentration – above all in ball possession the play must become still more dominant and more controlled. But the approaches look good. Kovač clearly leaves behind a handwriting that rightly triggers anticipation.

Against Schalke it will depend above all on the own ball circulation. Tedesco will also dare a somewhat higher midfield pressing, but for the most part they will park the bus with a deep back five, in order to then await counterattacks. There they feel most comfortable. Kovač will have to find solutions this time against a back five, that can block the otherwise focused half spaces quite more effectively than a back four.

Schalke may not be so successful at the moment, but the game against Bayern is now playing into their cards. For Bayern it’s all about calm, speed, control and good counter protection on Saturday evening. If all this fits, Tedesco might look as grim again as he did on Tuesday evening, when he would have liked to have sent the linesman out of the stadium with his gaze. Because then hardly any team in the world has a chance against this FC Bayern.

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