Frankfurt - Eintracht Frankfurt play host to FC Schalke 04 on Saturday aiming to end a seven-game winless run in the Bundesliga stretching back to Matchday 6, the three most recent of which have all ended in defeat.
Frankfurt struggling with crowded schedule
That form slump has left the Eagles just above the relegation zone on ten points - 13 fewer than they had at this juncture last season, by way of comparison, when they were riding high at third in the standings as a newly-promoted outfit. Visitors Schalke meanwhile are edging back towards the battle for a UEFA Champions League berth following successive victories at Hertha Berlin and against Werder Bremen.
Armin Veh, for one, is keeping a cool head, noting in the run-up that he has “players of strong character, and that's not something a few defeats are going to change”. One factor the head coach believes is significant to his team's current travails, however, is a particularly busy fixture list, with UEFA Europa League business coming on top of their Bundesliga and DFB Cup commitments. “The lads are hardly getting a break, it's only logical that we're starting to run out of steam after 75 minutes or so,” said Veh, referencing a spate of goals conceded inside the final ten minutes that have cost Frankfurt no fewer than three wins and two draws already this season.
Injuries to the likes of Pirmin Schwegler, Sebastian Jung, Bastian Oczipka, Jan Rosenthal and attacking midfielder Alexander Meier have not helped the situation either and the latter acknowledges that “we're not exactly bubbling over with self-confidence. All that will help now is work, work and more work”.
Keller anticipating tough encounter
Meanwhile, Veh's Schalke counterpart Jens Keller is gearing up for a game against “opponents who'll want to show their fans they can win at home as well”. And while Frankfurt may have taken just two points from a possible 15 in their own back yard this season, Keller has stressed that “we certainly won't be underestimating them, we know what's in store for us". He also rejected the suggestion that he might rest a few key players ahead of Tuesday's defining Champions League group stage trip to Steaua Bucuresti, saying, “we'll be sending our strongest side out against Eintracht”.
In that regard, the Royal Blues are looking in as good a shape as they have for some time, with only Christian Clemens out of contention for a starting berth alongside the club's longer-term injury cases. Among those returning from international duty in high spirits are Benedikt Höwedes and Julian Draxler, part of the Germany side who won at Wembley on Tuesday, and Joel Matip and Kevin-Prince Boateng, fresh from respectively helping Cameroon and Ghana book their ticket to next summer's World Cup finals.
Frankfurt:Trapp - S. Jung, Zambrano, Anderson, Oczipka - Russ, Rode - Barnetta, Meier, Flum - Kadlec
Schalke:Hildebrand - Uchida, Höwedes, Matip, Aogo - Neustädter, J. Jones - K.-P. Boateng, M. Meyer, Draxler - Szalai