When two teams with 230 years of combined history go head to head, things are going to get intense. Beware the ghost of Andersson, be seduced by the saga of Goretzka and thrill in the big game stats as we guide you through the story behind Saturday's battle in Bavaria between Bayern Munich and Schalke.
The Allianz Arena hosts are on a high, boasting an 18-point lead at the top of the table – the biggest ever margin after Week 21. Compare that to this time last year, when the gap to second was just five points, and see how Bayern are flying. The Royal Blues are faring far more admirably than a season ago too, eight points and five places better off than at this stage in 2016/17.
Watch: relive Schalke and Bayern's Matchday 5 meeting!
And even though Domenico Tedesco’s visitors have collected just four points since the winter break and haven’t beaten their weekend foes in 14 outings, beware the young tactician’s brave words ahead of his team’s latest outing. “We’re bolder away from home, where we win the ball back more and attack in numbers,” Tedesco said. The Miners’ goalkeeper and captain Ralf Fährmann added, “We’re looking forward to the game a lot, and even though we know that they'll be clear favourites, we’ll look to give Bayern a real fright.”
It was the opposite case back in 2001, when Patrick Andersson popped up to scare the living daylights out of Die Knappen in what has become one of the most iconic moments in Bundesliga history, adding an extra edge to this fixture ever since.
It was then, almost 17 years ago, as Schalke fans were celebrating what they believed was the arrival of a first-ever Bundesliga title, when Andersson struck. The Swede’s goal from an indirect free-kick teed up by Stefan Effenberg three minutes into added time against Hamburg served to swipe the championship from the men in blue. Scenes of pandemonium in Hamburg contrasted with utter desolation in Gelsenkirchen, where Schalke had triumphed against Unterhaching on a dramatic final day of the season while awaiting a Bayern loss that oh so nearly arrived.
“It was a little miracle … it was pure ecstasy,” Bayern hero Andersson later said in an interview with AZ. “That moment will stay with me my whole life. Everything bursts, everything explodes in that second,” the 46-year-old continued.
But back to the present, and with Bayern currently blowing up the Bundesliga in terms of their frightening form, Schalke’s Naldo knows one aspect of his side’s game that will have to be spot on. “We need to be more clinical with our chances,” the in-form defender explained after last weekend’s shock, last-gasp loss against Werder Bremen. “Obviously we didn’t expect to lose, but that defeat will not derail us,” the Brazilian added.
Neither were Schalke derailed when Bayern won the corresponding fixture 3-0 earlier this season, a game in which James Rodriguez scored his first Bundesliga goal. A subsequent stumble against Hoffenheim preceded a 13-match unbeaten run as the Tedesco revolution got up and running. Indeed, since that Hoffenheim loss, Die Königsblauen have scored in all 15 of their subsequent Bundesliga games, trailing only Bayern in that aspect, the defending champions having hit the target at least once in their last 18 German top-flight outings.
This game thus guarantees goals, and intrigue, with Leon Goretzka hoping to line out in Royal Blue against his future employers in regal red. The 23-year-old talent seems certain to be chosen to face his future teammates, with the likes of Chilean midfield machine Arturo Vidal – who also hit the target in September’s 3-0 Bayern triumph at the VELTINS-Arena – sure to be eyeing the young German pretender to his throne with added interest.
Watch: James Rodriguez and Leon Goretzka's tactical showdown!
There will be heightened interest too, among the monumental amount of Robert Lewndowski fans across the world. The Polish goal king has, incredibly, scored in every one of Bayern’s ten Bundesliga home games to date this term and one more would see the striker equal a phenomenal record held by none other than his boss Jupp Heynckes. For now, the 72-year-old coach – who was also in charge at Schalke in the past – is the only player in Bundesliga history to score in the first eleven home games of a season.
The cast is thus ready to entertain, the Allianz Arena stage set to be as resplendent as always. Domenico Tedesco has orchestrated a fine season for Schalke to date, but can he get one over on the man 40 years his senior? Both teams – on a high having reached the DFB Cup semi-finals during the week – are ready to act out another fascinating chapter in the story of one of the Bundesliga’s most enthralling encounters.