18:30 (CEST), Saturday 19th August, Veltins Arena (Gelsenkirchen, Germany), BT Sport 3
RB Leipzig had an outstanding in their first endeavour in the Bundesliga, finishing 2nd in the standings and for the most part challenged Bayern Munich for the title. The club has done extremely well with the likes of Timo Werner whilst the rise of Naby Keita and Emil Forsberg has many big name clubs taking note. Leipzig are a rising giant of the East but the question remains, will they be able to compete with the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich once again for the Meisterschale.
Schalke have once again undergone another make over entering the new season. Markus Weinzierl is out as manager and promising young manager Domenico Tedesco has been handed the keys. The Royal Blues have had a quiet off-season with a couple of transfers into the club, namely Bastian Oczipka in from Eintracht Frankfurt to replace Sead Kolašinac who jetted off to Arsenal. Benedikt Höwedes was also stripped of captain duties with keeper Ralf Fährmann to lead Schalke onto the pitch with Leon Goretzka to be his right-hand man.
Last Time Out
Berliner FC Dynamo 0-2 Schalke (DFB Pokal)
Schalke didn’t produce the most convincing performance in their first domestic outing under Domenico Tedesco but they did enough to book their ticket to the next round. The Royal Blues dominated early on and should’ve gone ahead multiple times through Guido Burgstaller and Yevhen Konoplyanka.
It would be the Ukrainian Konoplyanka who get his name on the scoresheet with the opening goal in the 78th Minute. Leon Goretzka playing in Konoplyanka and the Ukrainian did enough to beat Bernhard Hendl. Konoplyanka would pop up in stoppage time to secure his second of the contest to give Tedesco his first competitive victory as Schalke manager.
Sportfreunde Dorfmerkingen 0-5 RB Leipzig (DFB Pokal)
RB Leipzig began their domestic campaign in Aalen against 6th tier side Sportfreunde Dorfmerkingen. It would be Leipzig who would pepper the goal mouth with Marcel Sabitzer scoring in the 4th and 47th minutes to give Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side plenty of comfort. Timo Werner would get in on the act by scoring his first goal in the cup on the 56th minute.
Moments later Leipzig made it 4 to the good when Yussuf Poulsen connected from the penalty spot. RB Leipzig’s scoring was completed on 65 minutes thanks to in demand midfielder Naby Keita with a net busting effort to sent the rising giants through.
New season, new coach and new tactics to boot for Schalke as they look to improve on a disappointing season last time out. Domenico Tedesco brings a new flavour to the Royal Blues as they will now play in a 3-4-3 formation which is quite foreign to Schalke sides of the past. Schalke have almost a full side to choose from with Alessandro Schöpf the only injury on the list.
Changes are expected with Pablo Insua to get the start in the back three whilst Leon Goretzka starts in place of Weston McKennie. Naldo and Benedikt Höwedes should be available but whether they play or are included in the matchday squad will be one to watch.
RB Leipzig Lineup
With a comfortable win last time out, Ralph Hasenhüttl will be hoping his side turns up the temperature in their season opener at Schalke. The only real concern for Leipzig is the health of Emil Forsberg, one senses the club will take no risks and may opt to keep him home. This will give new summer signing Bruma the chance to assert himself as he starts on the left. Not too many changes from last year’s side as Leipzig looks to start the season off with a bang.
Key Battle: Nabil Bentaleb vs Naby Keita
Nabil Bentaleb will face a difficult task on matchday 1 as his likely head to head opponent will be Naby Keita. The Leipzig midfielder had a mega season in his first campaign in Germany’s top flight in which he completed 81% of passes and created 41 chances for his teammates with only Emil Forsberg (94) providing more last season.
But with Forsberg set to miss the season opener, the weight falls on Keita’s shoulders to produce on matchday 1. The Guinean has had a difficult pre-season as he tried to force a move to Liverpool, with that breaking down can he lead Leipzig to victory.
Schalke’s Nabil Bentaleb made a very good adjustment to life in the Bundesliga as his season long loan turned into a 4-year deal keeping the Algerian international in Gelsenkirchen til 2021. Like Keita, Bentaleb completed 81% of passes and created the 4th most chances for Schalke last season with 31. Solid in all areas, Bentaleb was a rock in midfield for Schalke. Can the 22-year old inspire a strong showing on Saturday night we shall see.
New state of mind
It was a very difficult season for Yevhen Konoplyanka where he only made 17 appearances for Schalke in the Bundesliga, only leading to a single goal. The Ukrainian was seldom used in Europa League and DFB Pokal fixtures but could rarely contribute meaningfully in the league. The beef between Konoplyanka and ex-coach Markus Weinzierl are well documented with the Ukrainian going as far to say that with Weinzierl as Schalke manager, the club would get relegated as well as calling his ex-boss a coward.
Under new management, it would seem that new manager Domenico Tedesco has Konoplyanka in his plans, one hopes he can repay his faith with goals and good performances.
Counter Attacking Turbo
RB Leipzig are an extremely dangerous side and on the counter attack, they burnt teams like toast on a Sunday morning. Their pace is almost unmatched and with Bruma joining the ranks, they have another speed demon on the wing who will be looking to make an impact on his Bundesliga debut.
Can Schalke nullify Leipzig and make them play the ball around instead of quickly counter attacking? If so, then Leipzig will be in some discomfort.
Prediction: Schalke 1-1 RB Leipzig
Both sides have big ambitions this season with Schalke in desperate need to appease the fan base carving good football and results. Leipzig were in dreamland last season but will they be able to replicate their stellar season. They have the players and will provide Schalke with a tough test but I can see the game ending all square with both sides creating plenty of chances.
Who will take the points between Schalke and RB Leipzig? Let us know in the comments section below.
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