bundesliga.com is on hand to make you privy to all the pre-match rumblings ahead of the clash at the BayArena…
Both sides won in Europe midweek, but are in contrasting veins of domestic form. Leverkusen may be unbeaten in four outings, but have worryingly dropped points in their last three, most recently in Stuttgart, while the Royal Blues have won three of their last four fixtures, including a debut victory for new head coach Roberto Di Matteo.
First-team regulars Simon Rolfes (ankle) and Gonzalo Castro (muscle) are no closer to a return. Head coach Roger Schmidt could hand Schalke loanee Kyriakos Papadopoulos his starting line-up debut, but will “see who is in a better condition” with both Ömer Toprak and Emir Spahic exhibiting flu-like symptoms.
Di Matteo will have the same squad that beat Sporting Clube de Portugal 4-3 at his disposal, with one exception. "It's not looking good for Kevin-Prince Boateng,” admitted the 44-year-old, who is still unsure regarding which player will feature in the Ghanaian’s stead. “We’ll try a few things out in training and then decide.”
Leverkusen boast a wealth of attacking talent, but conceding sloppy goals is costing them points, adding further importance to the role played by Lars Bender. Charged with protecting the backline and breaking up their opponents' movements in midfield, Bayer's midfield motor will need to be at the top of his game.
With the Werkself’s defence proving porous, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s purple patch couldn’t have been better timed. The Dutchman has struck in each of his last four appearances in all competitions, while only Robert Lewandowski has scored as often as the 31-year-old in the current calendar year. Both have netted 13 times.
Roger Schmidt (r.): "We’re looking forward to an intense encounter and want to celebrate picking up a win on home soil."
Roberto Di Matteo: "We’ve collected consecutive competitive victories. The team are in good form. [My style of play] won’t take effect over night."
Di Matteo’s impressive start as Schalke head coach certainly mirrors that of Roger Schmidt in Leverkusen. However, die Werkself found out the hard way that all good things come to an end, securing just a single win since Matchday 2’s 4-2 drubbing of Hertha. Die Knappen have amassed 10 points from a possible 18 in that time.
Neither side has managed to break the two-goal barrier in this fixture since 1 October 2006, with Leverkusen boasting the edge overall with 26 wins to Schalke’s 16 in 60 previous encounters. Schalke have won four of the last six meetings between the two regulars, including a 2-1 win in the corresponding encounter last season.
Leverkusen: Leno - Jedvaj, Toprak, Spahic, Wendell - L. Bender, Reinartz - Bellarabi, Calhanoglu, Son - Kießling
Schalke: Fährmann - Uchida, Höwedes, Ayhan, Aogo - Höger, Neustädter - Choupo-Moting, M. Meyer, Draxler - Huntelaar