THE BUNDESLIGA continues on Sunday and Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) is on-hand to preview the televised showdown between struggling Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen.
Schalke vs Bayer Leverkusen | Sunday 14th June 2020, 17:00 | BT Sport
Schalke host Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday afternoon as David Wagner’s side look to arrest a terrible run of form since the return of the Bundesliga, which has seen the Royal Blues pick one point up from an available 15.
Goals have been hard to come by, with Jonjoe Kenny netting Schalke’s first in five fixtures from open play last week, and when pouring through the underlying data for Wagner’s side, it paints an even more concerning picture when coming up against one of the league’s most potent attacks, and by no means a weak defence.
Despite picking a point up last week, Schalke only mustered a concerning four shots, with only one coming from inside the box and an Expected Goals (xG) output of 0.18, their lowest since the return. It was a fifth straight game where their xG went below one, and from a tactical point of view, there is a lot going wrong for Wagner.
The former Huddersfield boss has chopped and changed personnel and formation in the past weeks, but a common theme has remained. Lacking a focal point up front, as well as any tempo when on the ball, they have become too predictable in attack, as well as having players looking like they’re operating on a different wave length to one another.
Leverkusen’s defence is well equipped to deal with the threat that Schalke will pose on Sunday, with Jonathan Tah and Edmond Tapsoba capable of dealing with the physical threat, whilst Charles Aranguiz will be look to keep Rabbi Matondo quiet, who has looked their best attacking outlet in recent games.
Matondo had his best game playing off the strikers last week, looking to pick the ball up from deep and drive at the defence, and with Leverkusen expected to dominate possession, any hope they have of getting out and alleviating the pressure will come through Matondo, so Aranguiz will have to be on his game to cope with the young Welsh attacker.
Further to their concerning form, injuries have been rife for Schalke. Although being able to introduce Weston McKennie back from suspension will be a boost, particularly with Salif Sane struggling and being easily overrun in midfield last week against Union Berlin, the big misses from an attacking sense will be Suat Serdar, Amine Harit and Guido Burgstaller.
Serdar is top scorer for Schalke, whilst Harit has also chipped in with a number of goals and assists, and without these creative sparks in the side, it has been no surprise to see such a dramatic decrease in the attacking output and goal count.
With little options from the bench to change the game, it could be a long afternoon for Wagner and his side, and that means a Leverkusen win is hard to overlook.
Leverkusen difficult to dismiss
Although Leverkusen had a disappointing result against runaway leaders Bayern Munich last weekend, they responded with a professional and comfortable win over fourth-tier Saarbrucken in the DFB Pokal, and with Kai Havertz and Kevin Volland returning to the fold, the attacking threat looks imperious.
An xG of 56.25 to match the return of 56 goals this season, it will be even more worrying if Schalke continue with the 4-1-2-1-2 they attempted last week, which saw them back central areas and become easily overrun on the flanks.
With Leverkusen’s most deadly attacking threat coming from wide in recent weeks through Moussa Diaby, he will be relishing the prospect of coming up against a full back with little defensive support.
Diaby’s dribbling statistics have been phenomenal all season, and with his end product particularly improving in recent weeks, he has come on leaps and bounds since the return. Schalke’s shape could see him offered up the space to cause all sorts of problems, and if played on the right wing, full back Juan Miranda will be shaking in his boots at the prospect of coming against the in-form winger.
Miranda was at fault for the goal against Union last week, and was targeted throughout, eventually being booked late on and racking up for fouls in the process. Even the prospect of Karim Bellarabi up against Miranda is worrying, and I can envisage Leverkusen having plenty of joy targeting the on-loan left back in this clash.
The betting angle
Moving onto the stand out betting angles, it is hard to overlook Leverkusen, and given the defensive worries Schalke have and lack of cutting edge going forward, I would expect to see Leverkusen ease to a victory here. The visitors are 5/6 (Bet365) alongside Over 1.5 Goals, and I think that’s a good way to get Peter Bosz’s unit on side.
Building on the fact I can see a win for Leverkusen, their attacking wide play and the narrow defence potentially on show would point in the direction of Leverkusen racking up the corners, and it was no surprise to see Union have nine last week against Wagner’s side.
Add in the tricky dribblers Leverkusen possess and their counter attacking threat, something which would certainly come into play if Schalke go behind, it would bring into play the Schalke card market.
Factoring these extra elements in, by using William Hill’s Your Odds function we can get 18/5 by backing Leverkusen to win, have the most corners and Schalke to collect the most cards, and does take my fancy for this clash.
Schalke v Bayer Leverkusen – Bayer Leverkusen to win and Over 1.5 Goals (5/6 Bet365)
Schalke v Bayer Leverkusen – Bayer Leverkusen to win, Bayer Leverkusen to win the most corners and Schalke to collect the most cards (18/5 William Hill)