Bayer 04 Leverkusen will be without captain Lars Bender until 2016 with the combative midfielder requiring surgery on an ankle injury.

Bender will go under the knife in the Swiss city of Basel on Tuesday, and will not return for several weeks. The Germany international, 26, has not featured in the Bundesliga since Bayer's 1-1 draw with FC Augsburg on Matchday 8.

DUO BACK FROM BANS

Roberto Hilbert has returned to training as he continues his recovery from a knee operation. The 31-year-old, who has not played since the Matchday 4 loss to SV Darmstadt 98, is not fit enough to play against Schalke.

Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Ömer Toprak are available for Sunday's game at the BayArena (kick-off 17:30CET/16:30GMT) after returning from suspension.

At his pre-match press conference on Friday, Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt (below) confirmed Bender will be sidelined until the new year.