RB Leipzig vs Schalke – Saturday, January 13, 17:30GMT/18:30CET – Red Bull Arena, Leipzig, Germany
Known as das Topspiel the Saturday evening fixture is reserved for the Bundesliga matchday highlight. Indeed, RB Leipzig against Schalke 04 will represent two of the best teams in the Bundesliga this season. But the game will also be in the shadow of the January transfer window.
Schalke have brought in crucial player Marko Pjaca as well as talented Cedric Teuchert and wrapped up the summer transfer of Mark Uth. With just 19 different players used Schalke have used the fewest number of players of any Bundesliga side this season. The addition of Pjaca and Teuchert will, therefore, provide much-needed squad depth to Schalke head coach’s Domenico Tedesco’s squad.
Brought in from Juventus Turin Marko Pjaca will be launched straight into this side that will take on last year’s high-flying RB Leipzig. For both sides, this will be a key game, because both Schalke and RB are looking to secure a top-four spot in the Bundesliga to play in the Champions League next season. Schalke are currently second in the standings with 30-points, two points ahead of fifth place RB Leipzig.
The race for the Champions League spots is indeed tight in Germany. Second-placed Leipzig have separated just four points from seventh-placed Hoffenheim. Any matchday in the Bundesliga could re-shuffle the Champions League race significantly. With Schalke and RB Leipzig being direct competitors for one of the three Champions League spots behind Bayern München the result could be a precursor for the rest of the season.
The Champions League race will be one key factor in this match. But the entire world will also watch Leipzig too see how the club will react to the latest transfer speculations surrounding Naby Keïta. For Leipzig reaching the Champions League will be key to continue the project that in the long-term is supposed to challenge Bayern München. A defeat on Saturday, however, could mean that the club will take the Liverpool million to have a guaranteed income that could be used to not only extend the contracts of the likes of Timo Werner but also to add further to the squad.
For Schalke, in the meantime, the game on Saturday will be a precursor to whether the club are genuinely a Champions League contender. Tedesco and sporting director Christian Heidel have done well building a solid squad. But only Champions League money could further enhance the project and perhaps convince Schalke star Leon Goretzka to stay in Gelsenkirchen. With everything on the line expect a tightly fought affair, which will likely end in a high-scoring entertaining draw.
RB Leipzig vs Schalke – Players to look out for:
Naby Keïta #8 – RB Leipzig
Will he stay or will he go? One thing seems for certain Naby Keïta is expected to start for Leipzig on Saturday. At least that is what RB Leipzig head coach Ralph Hasenhüttl told the press on Thursday. Liverpool, however, are in the process of trying to convince Leipzig to let their midfield prodigy leave this winter and are willing to award RB Leipzig in the process richly. Either or all the eyes will be on Naby Keïta on the weekend—his performance, and perhaps absence will dominate everything that could happen on the pitch.
Max Meyer #7 – Schalke
Domenico Tedesco did not seem to have much use for the tiny magician. As a result, Max Meyer had been reluctant to extend his expiring contract. Then halfway through the Hinrunde Tedesco converted Meyer from a number 10 to a number 8. The switch has turned Meyer into one of the most effective central midfielders in the German game and has skyrocketed his transfer value. With his contract, up in the air Schalke are determined to sign him to a new deal. But Meyer knows his value, and like his teammate Leon Goretzka has not made up his mind on whether he will stay in Gelsenkirchen.
RB Leipzig vs Schalke – Match Stats
- Schalke finished the first half of the season with 30 points, the fewest by any second-placed side after 17 games.
- Schalke (19) and Leipzig (22) were the sides that used the fewest players.
- This is only the second time Schalke play in Leipzig and die roten Bullen won last season’s game 2-1.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: RB Leipzig vs Schalke 2-2
RB Leipzig vs Schalke – Lineups
Gulasci – Klostermann, Orban, Upamecano, Bernardo – Keïta, Ilsanker – Sabitzer, Kampl – Werner, Poulsen
Head Coach: Ralph Hasenhüttl
Fährmann – Stambouli, Naldo, Nastasić – Meyer – Caligiuri, Oczipka – Harit, Pjaca – di Santo, Burgstaller
Head Coach: Domenico Tedesco
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and social media editor at Bundesliga.com. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.