Schalke are set to welcome back USA international Weston McKennie for the visit of Julian Nagelsmann's in-form Hoffenheim on Saturday (kick-off: 8.30pm CEST/7.30pm BST/2.30pm ET).
Schalke dug in to draw 1-1 at second-bottom Nuremberg on Matchday 29, and Huub Stevens’ team will have to demonstrate those battling qualities again if they are to ease concerns over relegation. They start the day six points above VfB Stuttgart, who occupy the relegation play-off place, but have a Revierderby against Borussia Dortmund and a trip to Bayer Leverkusen to come. The Royal Blues are boosted this week by the return of McKennie, who picked up an ankle injury on international duty last month, but striker Steven Skrzybski is a major doubt. Breel Embolo - Schalke's joint-leading Bundesliga goalscorer this season, could be the man to benefit.
While Schalke have only won one of their five matches under Stevens, Hoffenheim have taken 13 points from a possible 15 in the same period after extending their winning run to three matches in last weekend's comfortable 2-0 triumph over Hertha Berlin. The Sinsheim club mounted a late and successful top-four push at the tail-end of 2017/18 and - currently only five points behind fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt - are threatening to repeat the trick in Nagelsmann's final campaign in charge before his move to RB Leipzig in the summer. Reiss Nelson was back among the goals from the bench against Hertha, and will hope to play some part in Gelsenkirchen, though the Arsenal loanee isn't expected to start with Nagelsmann set to name an unchanged first XI.
Watch: Reiss Nelson was back among the goals for Hoffenheim
- Schalke have scored 30 goals this season; Hoffenheim's first-choice front three of Ishak Belfodil, Joelinton and Andrej Kramaric have contributed 35 of Hoffenheim's 60-strike haul.
- The Royal Blues have netted just six times in their last 10 games, with three coming via set-pieces. On current form, they are the Bundesliga's tamest attack with only three goals from open play in 900 minutes.
- Stevens won only one of his 10 Bundesliga matches in charge of Hoffenheim, before stepping down due to health reasons and being replaced by Nagelsmann in February 2016. Nagelsmann's record in 131 Bundesliga games reads: W54, D32, L45.
- Hoffenheim's win over Hertha represented the first game in which neither Belfodil nor Kramaric found the net since the Matchday 18 defeat to Bayern Munich.
- Nelson is Hoffenheim's youngest ever player to score seven Bundesliga goals in a single season, breaking a record set by Roberto Firmino in 2012.
- Adam Szalai is out to end a 17-match run without a goal. The Hungarian's four goals of the season all came during the first eight games of the campaign.
Schalke: Nübel – Stambouli, Sane, Nastasic – Mascarell – Caligiuri, McKennie, Boujellab, Oczipka – Burgstaller, Embolo
Out: Mendyl (not considered), Schöpf (knee), Uth (groin)
Doubtful: Skrzybski (muscular)
Coach: Huub Stevens
Hoffenheim: Baumann – Kaderabek, Vogt (c), Hübner, Schulz – Demirbay, Grillitsch, Amiri – Kramaric – Belfodil, Szalai
Out: Joelinton (ankle)
Doubtful: Geiger (groin)
Coach: Julian Nagelsmann