Gelsenkirchen - Felix Magath returns to his former club on Saturday hoping it will provide the turning point in VfL Wolfsburg's season after they slipped into the bottom three last weekend.
Stars on display
Magath led FC Schalke 04 into the UEFA Champions League by virtue of a second-place finish in the Bundesliga in 2010, and the Royal Blues went on to reach the semi-finals of Europe's elite club competition once he had left, leaving a legacy which current coach Huub Stevens is trying to develop into the Gelsenkirchen-based club's maiden Bundesliga title.
Whatever the outcome at the Veltins Arena, the packed house can expect to see some of the Bundesliga's biggest stars. Last season's top scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has been consistently strong this season with three goals in six Bundesliga games and a further two in the Champions League, but he comes up against one of the division's strongest goalkeepers in Switzerland international Diego Benaglio. Before Huntelaar can even get that close to scoring, though, he'll have to find his way past the Wolfsburg's bulwark at the back, Naldo.
The Brazilian defender has put the injury problems which haunted his last season with SV Werder Bremen behind him and is returning to his best form, giving the Wolves the security they need at the back if they are to fulfil their lofty ambitions. What they really need, though, is a goalgetter. Wolfsburg would certainly benefit from the fire-power of Schalke's fearsome threesome of Huntelaar, Jefferson Farfan and Lewis Holtby, who is flourishing this season in a free role, hitting three goals so far.
The Wolves had 19 shots on goal against 1. FSV Mainz 05 last weekend, but still lost for the second time at home. Nevertheless, the fact they are creating so many chances is fuelling Magath's optimism. "In terms of the way we played, it was our best performance of the season," he said. "Unfortunately, all we didn't do was create enough danger in front of goal in spite of our efforts."
The skills and creativity of Diego are likely to prove pivotal in Saturday's clash. The Brazilian has only shown glimpses of his true quality so far this term, but demonstrated for Atletico Madrid last season how he can rise to the big occasion with victory in the UEFA Europa League. A similar explosion is expected of Ivica Olic, who has failed to light the blue touchpaper since arriving from FC Bayern Munich in the summer.
One of Germany's up-and-coming talents Julian Draxler will not be involved, though, after breaking his arm in Schalke's 2-2 draw with Montpellier on Wednesday. "I've visited Julian in hospital and, given the circumstances, he is doing well," reported his coach Stevens. "He was even making jokes and said that it is lucky it is only his left arm and not his foot."
Schalke: Unnerstall - Uchida, Matip, Höwedes, Fuchs - Neustädter, Jones - Farfan, Holtby, Afellay - Huntelaar
Wolfsburg:: Benaglio - Fagner, Naldo, Pogatetz, Rodriguez - Josué - Schäfer, Vieirinha - Diego - Olic, Lakic