Gelsenkirchen – FC Schalke 04 will be hoping to carry their European form into domestic action when they welcome FC Augsburg to the Veltins-Arena on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 15:30 CEST).
A fabulous goal gave the Royal Blues a 1-0 victory over FC Basel 1893 in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, sending them top of Group E with maximum points from their first two matches. Despite their impressive European displays, Schalke have struggled for consistency in the Bundesliga so far this campaign, something which Jens Keller’s side are desperate to put right.
Having been thumped 4-0 at home to FC Bayern München on Matchday 6, Schalke had looked on course to return to winning ways at Hoffenheim last weekend. However, two second-half goals rescued a point for the hosts and left Schalke wondering how they failed to win a match in which they had twice surrendered a two-goal lead. “We’re still a bit two-faced,” said Timo Hildebrand . “We worked very well as a team against Basel, as we have done in other games in which we’ve kept a clean sheet.”
Tuesday's shut-out was Schalke’s second in succession in the Champions League. It’s a different story domestically, however, where the Royal Blues have conceded seven in their last two games. “We’re aware we have to raise our game in the Bundesliga,” admitted Marco Höger . “Eight points from seven games isn’t good enough for us. We played well for the whole 90 minutes against Basel. We have to do the same against Augsburg.”
Winger Jefferson Farfan will miss Saturday’s encounter with the Fuggerstädter. The Peruvian international was taken after 44 minutes of Tuesday's encounter in Basel with a groin injury. Christian Fuchs and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar are yet to recover from knee injuries, while Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Anthony Annan and Chinedu Obasi all remain sidelined.
Augsburg coach Markus Weinzierl, meanwhile, may keep faith with the team that drew 2-2 against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 7. Tobias Werner is likely to keep his place in the side at Raphael Holzhauser’s expense, while Halil Altintop is set to line up against his former club.
Unlike their hosts on Saturday, Augsburg have performed above expectations so far this season and currently sit eighth in the Bundesliga table. Weinzierl's side even rose to sixth after Matchday 5 – a top-flight record – and have already won more points this campaign than they did in the entire first half of last season. Weinzierl is keeping his feet firmly on the ground, however: “Our aim is still to remain in the division – finishing higher up the league isn't our top priority,” he said. “The most important thing is stability for us.”
Saturday's encounter is set to be a special occasion for 30-year-old Altintop. Halil was born in Gelsenkirchen and made 96 Bundesliga appearances for the Royal Blues between 2006 and 2010. “The league table proves that Schalke have to win,” he told the Augsburger Allgemeine. “They are clear favourites, but I believe we’re in good enough form to take something from the game.”
Schalke: Hildebrand - Uchida, Höwedes, Felipe Santana, Aogo - Höger, Neustädter - Meyer, Boateng, Draxler - Szalai
Augsburg: Manninger - Verhaegh, Callsen-Bracker, Klavan, Ostrzolek - Baier - Hahn, Moravek, Halil Altintop, Werner - Mölders