Having kicked off 2017 with two away games, FC Bayern will finally be back in their home surroundings of the Allianz Arena on Saturday. Carlo Ancelotti’s side will be looking to maintain their lead at the top of the league when they take on FC Schalke 04 (live text and radio commentary from 15:30 CET) as they play the first of five games in the space of 15 days.
“We need to make sure we’re in the best shape for the games against Schalke, Wolfsburg and Ingolstadt and that we have the confidence we need to take into the round of 16 first leg at home to Arsenal on 15th
February,” said CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer identified the next three games as “good build-up and preparation for Arsenal in the Champions League.”Schalke better than their position in the table
But first FCB must focus on their meeting with 11th-placed Schalke. With 21 points from 18 games, it’s fair to say the Miners have performed below expectations and they are already nine points off the Europa League places. However Ancelotti warned on Friday that his side need to be wary of the Royal Blues: “Schalke are a good team, better than their position in the table suggests,” said the Italian.
With only 20 goals conceded, Schalke have one of the best defensive records in the league. “They’re very well organised defensively,” continued Ancelotti, who expects the visitors, who have not beaten FCB in the last 12 meetings, to be well-drilled. “They’ll come here to defend well and hit us on the counter.” Yet it’s in the attacking department where Schalke have been lacking this season having only scored 21 goals.Thiago back – Kimmich misses out
“The problem we have is that we’re missing eight to ten goals from strikers,” commented Schalke coach Markus Weinzierl. Their striker injury curse shows no sign of disappearing either. New signing Guido Burgstaller will miss this game with a muscular problem while Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is also out. “Goals get you points and eight to ten goals is equivalent to six to eight points, which would have put us in a much better position in the table,” added Weinzierl, who is nevertheless demanding a “courageous performance” from his team in Munich.
FCB have personnel problems of their own. With Jérôme Boateng and Franck Ribéry already out, Joshua Kimmich will also miss Saturday’s game due to an intestinal infection. On the positive side, Thiago is back in the squad and Arturo Vidal has recovered from his bruised rib and trained with the team this week. “They’re ready and in good condition,” reported Ancelotti, who won’t decide on his starting line-up until Saturday. Captain Philipp Lahm could make his 500th
competitive appearance for FCB.
Ahead of the busy schedule, Ancelotti may rest one or two players with an eye on Tuesday’s cup game. “Rotation will be very important in these games,” explained the experienced coach. But regardless of which players he sends out at 15:30 on Saturday, Ancelotti is sure of one thing: “We want to and can play better than the last game.”