BERLIN (Reuters) – Schalke 04 are looking for their first win over champions Bayern Munich since 2010 when they travel to the Bavarian capital on Saturday, boosted by last week’s victory over third-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Coach David Wagner has quietly turned the Royal Blues into contenders for a European spot, with a solid defence — the second best in the league — the backbone of his game.
Their quick switch-play and counter-attacks have proved equally effective, with seven goals already coming on the break, compared to three for all of last season.
Schalke, who have lost just once in their last 10 league games, are in fifth place on 33 points, three behind Bayern, who are second.
“We have no pressure at all because when you play at Bayern you have nothing to lose,” said midfielder Suat Serdar, Schalke’s leading scorer with seven league goals.
“If we keep playing as we did before the winter break and last week against Gladbach, then everything is possible.”
They will need their speed in what will be a matchup of the league’s fastest teams. Only Bayern average more sprints per game than Schalke’s 243.
The addition of Michael Gregoritsch, who came in the winter break on loan from Augsburg and scored once and set up the other goal against Gladbach, will be key to Schalke maintaining their fast-paced game and also provide more power in the air.
“If you look at our lineup then you see that it is a very young team,” Serdar said. “Obviously there are things we need to improve but, compared to last season, we have take a big step forward.”
The Bavarians have themselves brought in reinforcements this week, with right back Alvaro Odriozola joining on loan from Real Madrid until the end of the season, as interim coach Hansi Flick struggles with injuries to defenders Javi Martinez, Lucas Hernandez and Niklas Suele.
Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich is also back after suspension as the champions look to stretch their four-game winning run in the league and close the gap to leaders RB Leipzig.
Leipzig, on 40 points, travel to Eintracht Frankfurt, while Gladbach, third on 35, host Mainz 05. Borussia Dortmund, fourth on 33, host Cologne on Friday.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
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