THE BUNDESLIGA continues on Sunday and Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) is on-hand to preview the televised showdown between Schalke and Augsburg.
Schalke v Augsburg | Sunday 24th May 2020, 12:30 | BT Sport
Schalke will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 4-0 derby defeat to Dortmund last weekend on Sunday when they come up against struggling Augsburg at the Veltins Arena.
The drubbing left them still sat eighth in the league, however they are without a win in the league since January, where they defeated Borussia Monchengladbach 2-0. Their European hopes, which heading into the winter break looked a real possibility, now hang in the balance, and David Wagner will be hopeful that a win over strugglers Augsburg hold the key to a revival in form.
Augsburg themselves head into the game in a torrid run of form, with only one win since the winter break, coming at the hands of Werder Bremen, who are languishing in 17th and heading towards the drop. Although they are nine points clear of automatic relegation, the four-point gap to Fortuna Dusseldorf in 16th, the relegation playoff spot, will be sending alarm bells ringing, and a revival in form is much needed.
Schalke have been hit by injuries to key men Armine Harit and Jean-Clair Todibo, and it would be no surprise to see the Royal Blues shuffle the pack and see some tactical tweaks from Wagner after such a poor performance against Dortmund.
Initially starting with a back three, Dortmund were able to unpick the spaces against the central two midfielders with ease, whilst there were defensive concerns from the wingers who often left their wing backs exposed, highlighted by Dortmund’s opener.
A switch to four at the back did help regain some control and offer more of a focal point up front for Schalke, and given the struggles in front of goal Wagner’s side have had this season, it would be no surprise to see them opt for a more recognised striker in Michael Gregoritsch up top, offering them a constant threat. Todibo’s absence further reinforces this, and it does offer up some interesting angles if starting in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Moving onto Augsburg who lost 2-1 at home to Wolfsburg last week, it has been defensive issues that have been the biggest concern for Heiko Herrlich’s side. Goals haven’t been an issue for Augsburg, netting 37 times at an xG of 35.99, with Florian Niederlechner standing out with 11 goals up front. However, the goals have flown in up the other end, conceding a worrying 54 goals at an xGa of 46.46, and the sheer volume of shots they face is an added concern.
Caligiuri could be key
With Augsburg averaging 14.3 shots against per game, it is a cause for concern and despite Schalke’s recent struggles in front of goal, I do expect to see a response from Wagner’s side after the derby-day humbling. A switch to a 4-2-3-1 would see Daniel Caligiuri set up in an advanced, wide role, and up against Philipp Max who can vacate space when attacking, it could be an area Schalke target, particularly on the counter.
Although only averaging 1.5 shots per game, Caligiuri racked up three last weekend against Dortmund, and when playing as a more advanced wide midfielder in this formation, he sees a spike in his shots per game to 3.0 per game in his last six playing this role.
An added bonus that he was on set pieces against Dortmund, he is 13/10 (Betfair) for a shot on target, and this is a particularly appealing price. Three or more shots is also priced at 15/8 (Betfair), and if starting in the advanced role for Schalke, it is definitely another bet I’d be happy to take on, especially considering Augsburg’s defensive worries.
The other area to catch my eye this season regarding Schalke is the number of players happy to dribble on the ball, particularly in central areas, and this often leads to a high volume of tackles against Wagner’s side. Although Harit will be a miss, the potential of Suat Serdar and Benito Raman lining up in central areas is still catching my interest, and Serdar in particular averages 2.6 dribbles, combined with being dispossessed on average 2.3 times per-game and making 2.2 unsuccessful touches.
Rani Khedira and Daniel Baier will be in direct competition with Serdar in these central areas, and it is Baier’s tackle line which is most tempting. Although only averaging 1.7 tackles, the German should see a spike in his numbers. Priced at 5/4 (Coral), Baier to make three or more tackles is particularly tempting, especially when considering Julian Brandt picked up five playing a similar central role last weekend for Dortmund.