In Xabi Alonso's first game in charge, newly-promoted Schalke come to the BayArena with both clubs hoping they can distance themselves from the bottom of the table.
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Xabi Alonso has quite the task on his hands to turn around a Champions League side that are off to their worst league start in 40 years. Luckily, the company club are full of talent and Alonso knows the league quite well after his years spent at Bayern Munich.
Offensive improvement will be a major focal point, as Leverkusen have only been able to score nine goals in eight league games. It will be interesting to see whether Alonso sticks with his usual 4-2-3-1 formation that was seen at Real Sociedad and how he will utilize Jeremie Frimpong and Piero Hincapie out wide.
With ten games before the World Cup, Alonso does not have a lot of time to turn around a team who thought they could compete for a Bundesliga title before the season began.
In a press conference, Alonso stated that, "I told the team that we can be dominant and enjoy what we do. New energy. It starts now. We won't be waiting until Saturday. Giving one's best every day. That's the mentality I wish to exemplify."
Sardar Azmoun, Exequiel Palacios, Karim Bellarabi, Andrey Lunyov and Florian Wirtz remain out.
Schalke, who suffered a costly home loss to Augsburg last weekend, are also disappointing to start the campaign. Sepp van den Berg and Rodrigo Zalazar suffered injuries on Matchday 8 and are now out until 2023.
The Royal Blues have only claimed a victory against lowly Bochum and this undoubtedly will be a difficult away test against a hungry and rejuvenated Leverkusen team.
Frank Kramer has several options up front with Jordan Larsson available once again, but many supporters are craving to see the daunting pair of Simon Terodde and Sebastian Polter finally start together.
Kramer said that, "Sunday was really disappointing, and even more so because of the injuries. We will have to find a way of dealing with these blows. We've had to dust ourselves down and now our full focus is on Leverkusen."
Marcin Kaminski, van den Berg, Zalazar and Ibrahima Cisse will not be in the squad.