bundesliga.com previews a six-pointer of an altogether different kind between two sides with undoubted European pedigree...
Leverkusen and Schalke both have their hearts set on playing Champions League football after suffering agonising defeats in the last-16 of this season's competition. Fourth-placed Bayer 04 hold a narrow three-point lead over Schalke in fifth and only trail third-in-the-table Borussia Mönchengladbach by two: it's that close.
' one-match ban opens the door for either Knappenschmiede graduate Kaan Ayhan (r.) or fit-again Bosnian international Sead Kolasinac to start at the back. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is a doubt with a calf complaint, but the game comes too soon for Ralf Fährmann, Julian Draxler and Jefferson Farfan.
Roger Schmidt will likely make changes to his starting line-up following their exertions in Wednesday's penalty shootout defeat to Club Atletico de Madrid in the Champions League. Influential midfielder (l.) is suffering from cramp, however, and may miss out.
(r.) proved he's no one-hit wonder by adding to his classy strike against Real Madrid CF with a well-taken effort on the road at Hertha Berlin last weekend. If the 19-year-old does come in for only his second Bundesliga start, there's no question that magic left boot of his will pose problems for Bayer 04's weary legs.
That said, (l.) should be feeling relatively fresh after being taken off inside 70 minutes in the Spanish capital. The Swiss international scored twice in last Friday's 4-0 home win over VfB Stuttgart and might find himself with plenty to feed on in amongst Schalke's makeshift back four.
Roberto Di Matteo (head coach): "The game against Bayer 04 is a six-pointer. Our home record is good and our fans really get behind us. It's definitely a small advantage. We need to be committed and focussed."
Roger Schmidt (head coach): "We want to be playing in the Champions League next season without a doubt - that has to be our goal. We'll give everything in the Bundesliga to make that happen. We know how important this game is. We want to take something from it."
Results have picked up for Schalke since the 3-0 derby defeat in Dortmund, with wins over Real Madrid CF and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim preceding last weekend's 2-2 draw in Berlin. Leverkusen's five-match winning run in all competitions, meanwhile, came to a grinding halt in Madrid.
A stunning (l.) free kick gave ten-man Leverkusen the spoils the last time the two sides met in the Bundesliga on Matchday 9. Schalke won 2-0 at home in 2013/14, however, with Bayer 04 only winning once at the in the last five years.
Schalke: Wellenreuther - Ayhan, Matip, Nastasic - Uchida, Fuchs - Neustädter - Höger, Meyer - Sane, Huntelaar
Leverkusen: Leno - Hilbert, Spahic, Toprak, Wendell - Bender, Rolfes - Bellarabi, Castro, Son - Kießling