The fixture sees brothers Marvin (l.) and Joel Matip go face-to-face.
The fixture sees brothers Marvin (l.) and Joel Matip go face-to-face.

Three points a must for both Schalke and Ingolstadt

FC Schalke 04 face a stern test of their UEFA Champions League credentials when they travel to an FC Ingolstadt 04 side with work still to do to secure their seat at the top table of German football next season.

Infographic: The European contenders' run-in

Buoyed by a 2-1 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach – a result which lifted Andre Breitenreiter's men above the Foals and into that coveted fourth place – the Gelsenkirchen club will not want to let their grip on Champions League qualification loosen as the finish line approaches, and with plenty of high hurdles still to clear.

Tough run-in

On paper at least, Saturday's trip to Bavaria represents one of the lowest the Royal Blues still have to cross, with the Revierderby against Borussia Dortmund looming and Bayer 04 Leverkusen due to visit the VELTINS Arena on Matchday 31. A trip to FC Bayern München also beckons as Schalke hit the final straight, they hope at a canter.

Belhanda may only have been in the Bundesliga for a handful of months, yet he already knows that there is no such thing as an easy game in Germany’s top division. "You should never write off a German team until the referee blows the final whistle," he said.  "In the reverse game against [Ingolstadt], we saw that they're difficult to play against. They're well organised and concede very few chances. They'll play very compactly and hit us on the counterattack. That's why it'll be important to score first, otherwise it'll be difficult to come back from that."

Home comforts

Ingolstadt midfielder Almog Cohen also has a good feeling, having made his return to duty with Israel after a four-year absence during the international break. He was one of ten Ingolstadt players away representing their countries over the past fortnight – a sign of how far the Bavarian club have come on in recent years – and he says they have all tanked up on confidence for the crucial conclusion of their maiden season among Germany's elite.

- © gettyimages / Lennart Preiss