How Bayern Munich Will Line Up Against Schalke in the Bundesliga

Stefan BienkowskiFeatured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2014

Bayern's Thiago Alcantara of Spain celebrates after winning the German first division Bundesliga soccer match between Hannover 96 and Bayern Munich in Hannover, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Bayern Munich return to table-topping Bundesliga action this Saturday with a top-four clash with fellow Champions League participants Schalke. 

Following what was a historic 6-1 home defeat to Real Madrid on Wednesday night in the Royal Blues' first leg of the opening knockout round, Bayern will not only have the physical edge over their opponentshaving had the entire week offbut will also undoubtedly be a lot more confident going in to the game. 

Of course, it isn't just circumstances out with this match that will have a direct effect on its potential outcome. Bayern already have a fantastic record against their Gelsenkirchen rivals. 

The Bavarian club have won their last six matches in all competitions against Schalke, with a total aggregate score that comes to a staggering 19-0. If there was one side that had all the odds stacked against them in the Bundesliga this weekend, it's Schalke.


The Line-Up

In defence, we're likely to see a similar setup to what we saw in the 4-0 victory over Hannover last weekend. This will consist of Brazilian full-back Rafinha keeping his spot at right-back following a run of good form in Germany and abroad, while David Alaba should see his spot at left-back untouched.

Javi Martinez should also see his new role at centre-back remain intact following a man-of-the-match performance in last weekend's game, with Pep Guardiola opting for either Jerome Boateng or Dante to sit alongside him in the centre of defence.

The Brazilian seems likelier to take this spot considering the talent in the Schalke side.

Boateng is clearly more athletic than Dante, but it's the former Gladbach tackler's ability to read the play against top opposition that gives him the edge over his German counterpart. 

Again, midfield looks as though it should really pick itself following an impressive display from Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm and Thiago Alcantara last week. Toni Kroos may be brought in to replace the young Spaniard, but besides that we shouldn't expect too much change.

Schweinsteiger did in fact pick up a knock following the Hannover game, but no news of any serious injury from Bayern suggests he should be fit for Saturday's game.

Considering the manner in which he slotted back into the side and set about dominating possession and the general tempo of his side, one could imagine Guardiola's enthusiasm to keep the German international ticking along on a good run of form.

It's once we get to the front line that things become to get a little tricky. The club's official website reported that Thomas Muller picked up an injury in the Hannover game and did not train with the full team this week, so we can assume that he will not feature this weekend.

This means Guardiola now has three of his starting forwards out of action, following Franck Ribery and Xherdan Shaqiri's injuries.

As such, we can likely depend on the Catalonian coach to stick Mario Gotze on the left-hand side of attack, where he eventually ended up playing against Hannover and during the Arsenal game before that too. Meanwhile, Arjen Robben returns to the starting XI to take up his familiar role of right winger.

The lone striker role has Mario Mandzukic's name written all over it, but it is worth pointing out just how aggravated the striker has looked of late. Far from the cool finisher we know the Croatian forward to be, he spent much of the Hannover game rolling on the floor and complaining about every tackle or bump he received.

Yes, he picked up a consolation goal, but the perception he was giving off is something that Guardiola will have undoubtedly noticed.

He's Bayern's first-choice striker for now, but he'll have to fix up and look a little sharper if he wants to keep his spot ahead of Claudio Pizarro or more importantly Robert Lewandowski this summer.