Augsburg v Schalke – WWK Arena at 14:30

Schalke finished last season’s Bundesliga as close to the relegation play-off as they were to Europe and so the powers that be at the Veltins Arena knew change was required if Die Königsblauen was going to battle back towards the top of German domestic football.

Even so, the decision to hire a 31-year-old head coach with limited experience was met by skepticism in and around the club. To say Schalke’s supporters have overbearing expectations from past, pre-Bundesliga glories would be unfair, but they are a demanding club with significant pressures.

So Domenico Tedesco – now the ripe old age of 32 – deserves immense credit for his first campaign in charge at the Gelsenkirchen club. The rookie boss has beaten fierce local rivals Borussia Dortmund and taken Die Königsblauen back to within touching distance of Champions League football.

Schalke’s gritty approach

Whilst the Schalke supporters crave brave, attacking football, they’ve also fallen in love with Tedesco’s new brand and approach at S04. The Gelsenkirchen group display their credentials in other ways and so their prizing defensive organization and containment have bucked tradition.

Tedesco’s preparation and eye for detail has got the best out of a good but not outstanding squad, particularly defensively where Schalke’s Bundesliga campaign has seen Die Königsblauen concede fewer goals than any team but runaway champions Bayern Munich.

The three-man backline gives the group a bit more security and allows the gritty, possession-light football to be punctured by swift counters, normally emanating from wide. Tedesco’s side may be more graft than craft although they have shown that defending well and being ambitious are not mutually exclusive.

The betting angle

A solitary point will be enough for Schalke to secure a top-four finish and Champions League qualification and the visitors should have enough in their locker to complete the job with a week to spare. However, Tedesco’s troops haven’t been quite as consummate on their travels this term.

Six clean sheets have been racked up on the road but Schalke hasn’t always convinced, as their W7-D4-L5 return would testify for a team that’s taken the honor of ‘Best of the Rest’ in Germany. Goals have also had a feast or famine tendency and a similar scenario could unfold at Augsburg on Saturday.

The hosts have little left to play for but remain tricky opposition. The Bavarians often relish visits from traditional Bundesliga powerhouses and games have provided plenty of entertainment too with 12 of their 14 matches when hosting top-five sides since 2015/16 featuring both sides scoring.

Four of the past five meetings between these two teams over the same period have followed suit and with the same selection returning profit in seven of Schalke’s last 11 games as guests, I’m happy to support Over 2.5 Goals at a bulbous 2.10 this weekend.

Augsburg has only twice failed to get on the scoresheet at home this season and with three of the top-four already notching two or more goals here, Schalke should be capable of grabbing at least two goals on Saturday.

Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 2.50 Goals at 2.080

By @MarkOHaire

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