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back Bundesliga | 08.02.2013 15:17:59

Unenviable task awaits Schalke in Munich

  • Thomas Müller (l.) has been on fire all season for FC Bayern and scored the second in the Bavarians' 2-0 win on Matchday 4
  • Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer will see plenty of familiar faces when former club Schalke take to the pitch in Munich on Saturday evening
  • Both Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (r.) and Christian Fuchs (l.) will be missing for the out-of-sorts visitors

Munich - With superlatives running out to describe the performances and achievements of FC Bayern Munich so far this season, it is easier to let the hard facts speak for themselves ahead of the league leaders' match at home to FC Schalke 04 on Saturday evening (kick-off 18:30 CET).

After 20 games the Bavarians have racked up 51 points, scored 51 goals and conceded just seven in return - an unprecedented balance at this stage of any of the Bundesliga's previous 49 seasons. Furthermore, Jupp Heynckes' men have the league's leading scorer in their ranks, have completed more passes (87.9 per cent), had more shots on goal (355) and touches of the ball (15672 in total) than any other side in the top flight.

No let-up


As if that wasn't enough, Bayern have won 29 of 42 league games at home to Schalke and, worryingly for the Royal Blues' travelling support, the hosts are in no mood to ease off. "We're in great shape right now and that's why we shouldn't let Schalke stand in our way," said midfielder Thomas Müller, who was singled out for praise by Heynckes: "He's always hungry, he makes runs that hurt opponents - he plays in a very clever way".

Bayern are likely to line-up with the same eleven that has started the first three matches of the Rückrunde, with Franck Ribery, Toni Kroos, Müller and Mario Mandzukic making up the forward department. Bastian Schweinsteiger should be fit after struggling with an ankle complaint earlier in the week, while goalkeeper Manuel Neuer will be aiming to keep his former team-mates at bay.

Schalke short on personnel


To compound the intimidating statistics, Schalke have been in poor form of late, picking up just four points from their three games since the turn of the year. Given the size of their task, they could have done without the news that striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will miss the game due to an eye injury, joining suspended left-back Christian Fuchs as well as the injured Ibrahim Afellay and Kyriakos Papadopoulos on the sidelines. "There's no point complaining," head coach Jens Keller said. "Now it's up to other players to fill the void."

There was even more bad news on the way for the uncomplaining Keller, though. Jefferson Farfan is not expected back in Germany until around noon on Saturday after the authorities in Caracas refused to allow him and fellow Peruvian Bundesliga stars Claudio Pizarro and Eintracht Frankfurt's Carlos Zambrano onto their scheduled connecting flight on the way back from a 2-0 friendly victory in Trinidad and Tobago. Pizarro, of course, is pencilled in for the FC Bayern squad, but such is the Munich side's strength-in-depth that they can opt to make a late call on the Bundesliga's top all-time foreign scorer.

Another Bastos special?


That is a luxury the visitors cannot afford at the moment and, jetlag or no, Farfan is set to run out from the start at the Allanz Arena, in partnership with Finland international Teemu Pukki up front. New signing Michel Bastos meanwhile will have another chance to shine after hitting the net in spectacular style on his Bundesliga debut - albeit one that ended in a shock loss to cellar-dwellers Greuther Fürth.

"I believe in the boys and they have the belief that they can turn things around," Keller said. Victory against all odds would certainly provide a catalyst for change.

Possible line-ups:

Bayern: Neuer - Lahm, van Buyten, Dante, Alaba - Martinez, Schweinsteiger - Müller, Kroos, Ribery - Mandzukic

Schalke: Hildebrand - Höger, Höwedes, Matip, Kolasinac - Neustädter - Farfan, Jones, Barnetta, Bastos - Pukki


Jon Stockitt

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