It's into the unknown for Weston McKennie on Sunday when the Schalke and USA midfielder faces promoted Paderborn for the first time in a young career already spanning 50 Bundesliga appearances (kick-off: 6pm CEST/5pm BST/12pm ET).
Lining up against Paderborn may be a novel experience for McKennie, but the North Rhine-Westphalian outfit have been here before. Paderborn enjoyed top-flight football for the first time in 2014/15, only to plummet straight back through the trapdoor into Bundesliga 2. Successive relegations took them to the brink of the fourth tier, but the collapse of 1860 Munich meant that they were given a lifeline, and reinstated in the third division. Two back-to-back promotions later, Paderborn are back in the big time and loving life. Steffen Baumgart's swashbuckling ensemble are yet to win, but they did get their first point on the board after holding top-four candidates Wolfsburg to a 1-1 draw prior to the September international break. Streli Mamba is their top scorer with two goals in three games, and could hold the key against Schalke, with Baumgart expected to name the same side that ran Wolfsburg so close on Matchday 3.
After drawing 0-0 with Borussia Mönchengladbach and going down 3-0 at home to defending champions Bayern Munich, Schalke kicked into gear with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Hertha Berlin. Two own goals set David Wagner on the road to his first win as coach, before Everton-owned Jonjoe Kenny opened Schalke's account proper with his maiden Bundesliga goal. The contest also represented McKennie's 50th Bundesliga outing. The US international has become an integral part of various Schalke iterations since making his senior debut in May 2017, and should be relatively fresh after being granted early leave from the USA's September roster in order to focus on domestic matters. The 21-year-old played 90 minutes of the friendly defeat to Mexico on Saturday, before returning to Germany in midweek. Assuming McKennie is fully fit, Wagner will see little reason to deviate much from the starting line-up that dispatched Hertha so convincingly.
Watch: Highlights of Schalke's Jonjoe Kenny-inspired 3-0 win over Hertha Berlin
- Mamba has been Paderborn’s most potent attacking force this season, scoring twice and assisting once to have a hand in a goal every 67 minutes he has played.
- Paderborn are the only team to have scored inside the first 15 minutes in each of their first three games this season.
- Baumgart’s men are yet to hold onto all three points, though, losing twice and drawing once.
- Schalke boast a 100 percent record against Paderborn. The sides met twice in the 2014/15 Bundesliga season, with the Royal Blues winning 2-1 and 1-0.
- Kenny has put in the most crosses among Bundesliga defenders this season, with 14.
- Schalke captain and goalkeeper Alexander Nübel is from Paderborn and played 26 times for their reserve team, before moving to Schalke as an 18-year-old in 2015.
Paderborn: Huth - Dräger, Strohdiek (c), Hünemeier, Collins - Cauly, Vasiliadis, Gjasula, Antwi-Adjei - Mamba, Michel
Out: Schonlau (foot)
Coach: Steffen Baumgart
Schalke: Nübel (c) - Kenny, Sane, Nastasic, Oczipka - McKennie, Mascarell - Caligiuri, Harit, Kutucu - Burgstaller
Out: Bentaleb (groin), Raman (ankle)
Coach: David Wagner