RB Leipzig v Schalke – Red Bull Arena at 17:30 Live at BT Sport
Schalke entered the 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign with a number of question marks hanging over the club. Would young and inexperienced head coach Domenico Tedesco be capable of dealing with the demands of managing such an illustrious club? How would the Royal Blues handle the loss of club legend Benedikt Howedes? And after years of underachievement could the Miners battle back return to Germany’s elite?
Schalke fans could be forgiven for fearing the worse as the Royal Blues opened their account with three wins and three damaging defeats to Hannover, Bayern Munich and Hoffenheim in the opening stanza of the season but thereafter, Tedesco’s troops have found their range.
The group from Gelsenkirchen completed the Hinrunde unbeaten in 11 Bundesliga outings (W5-D6-L0) – their longest run for 11 years, and that despite having to face top-half teams in four of their most recent five ahead of the winter break.
Tedesco has shown that the job is not too big for him and he has the tactical and technical ability to steer Schalke back towards the top end of the table. The Royal Blues currently occupy second place and have enjoyed relative success against the division’s leading lights of late.
Indeed, Bayern Munich is the only fellow top-six club to pocket maximum points against Schalke this season, and even last term when the visitors were struggling, they bagged a draw at Bayern and Dortmund and gave a great account of themselves in a 2-1 loss in Leipzig.
Leon Goretzka and Paulo Insua are the only players missing for the Miners whilst new signing Marko Pjaca is an option to start his competitive debut. The club enjoyed a training camp in Benidorm at the beginning of 2018 and have said they can’t wait to get back into action for this mouthwatering match-up.
Leipzig’s second season
It was always going to be difficult for RB Leipzig to match their superb debut campaign as a newly promoted side with the added ‘burden’ of the Champions League, but with the Hinrunde behind them, they can be satisfied with their position in fifth.
Without the surprise factor and with the requirement to rotate his squad more than last season, coach Ralph Hasenhuttl has managed to maintain Leipzig’s position as a real contender for a top-four finish.
European commitments, of course, put a strain on the squad but after a winter at home to rest and recuperate, the Bulls will want to kick-on. With a fully fit squad, Leipzig is feeling good, with Timo Werner back in training after being ill over the holiday period.
But although the hosts have only lost once at home in the Bundesliga this season – their last outing, against Hertha Berlin – they entered the winter break without a victory in four and look a little too skinny to side with here. Therefore, I’m happy to invest in Schalke with a +0.50 start at 1.862 on the Asian Handicap line.
Defensively Leipzig has recorded just three clean sheets and a streetwise Schalke outfit has the potential to exploit any such weakness on Saturday evening.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Schalke +0.5 at 1.862
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