Schalke 04 vs. Bayer Leverkusen preview:
Can die Werkself continue their winning run?
By Ben Sully @SullyBen
Bayer Leverkusen will attempt to claim a sixth straight victory in all competitions on Saturday when they face a Schalke side that have not lost since January.
|Photo: Bayer 04 Leverkusen|
Schalke went into the international break off the back of an eight-game unbeaten run comprising two wins and six draws. After coming from behind on two occasions to draw 2-2 against rivals Borussia Dortmund, Die Königsblauen showed great character once again in their final match before the international period. They looked to be heading towards defeat when Augsburg took the lead through Arne Maier, but Marius Bülter salvaged a point with a 93rd-minute equaliser.
Although Schalke have not lost since January 24, they remain in the bottom two with goal difference keeping them behind Hertha BSC, who currently occupy the relegation spot. They are also just one point adrift of safety altogether, suggesting that the battle to remain in the top flight could go right to the wire.
Having scored the first goal in just five of their 25 league games this season, Schalke will be targeting a positive start to Saturday's contest.
Schalke still have to contend with a lengthy injury list. Kenan Karaman, Moritz Jenz, Sepp van den Berg and Soichiro Kozuki are all ruled out. They are also without the services of Danny Latza, Jere Uronen and Tim Skarke, while Sebastian Polter and Justin Heekeren are long-term absentees.
Leverkusen, who are unbeaten in seven games in all competitions, will have the chance to claim a sixth consecutive victory on Saturday after extending their winning run with a victory over Bayern Munich before the international break. Joshua Kimmich gave the Bavarians the lead, but Exequiel Palacios scored from the spot on two occasions in the second half to complete the turnaround. Incidentally, the 2-1 victory over Xabi Alonso's side ultimately proved to be the final game for Bayern boss Julian Nagelsmann, who was sacked over the international period.
There is so much to play for in the final stretch of the season for a Leverkusen side that are three points adrift of the top six and in the Europa League quarter-finals.
Ahead of Saturday's encounter, die Werkself can draw confidence from the fact that they are unbeaten in their last seven Bundesliga games against Schalke. They have also won their previous three head-to-head meetings, including a comfortable 4-0 victory when the two sides met in October.
Andrey Lunev, Nadiem Amiri, Charles Aranguiz and Patrik Schick are all expected to miss out for the visitors.