Schalke v Koln – VELTINS-Arena at 17:30 GMT+1
Schalke have stormed into the top four in the Bundesliga – above their lightly faltering rivals Borussia Dortmund – after picking up four successive victories. However, none were as eye-catching as last weekend’s 3-1 success at RB Leipzig.
The word ‘proud’ was invented for days like today” remarked head coach David Wagner, although it wasn’t always as clear-cut as the final score suggested. Leipzig made a strong start with the hosts hitting the woodwork before Schalke captain and keeper Alexander Nübel producing an incredible double save.
But those were to be the home side’s only two efforts in the first half of a game that quickly turned in the visitors’ favour. Salif Sane nodded home on the half-hour mark, by which time Wagner’s side were expertly breaking up every RB attack. Their boldness rewarded with a second from the spot from Amine Harit.
Wagner giving Harit a role in the centre has contributed to his rejuvenation, just as his surprise deployment of Welsh teenager Rabbi Matondo – the former Man City winger – as a striker alongside Guido Burgstaller, did. The trio continued to threaten for the Royal Blues with Matondo grabbing the third on the counter.
“I’m not afraid to say that we’re a top team if we can continue to bring performances of this level,” Harit boldly stated post-match. That, as always, remains the challenge for Schalke, although it’s difficult to dismiss the Gelsenkirchen group on the evidence of the past month.
Newcomers can be exposed
If Schalke are buoyant, returning Koln are deflated. The Billy Goats barely looked capable of crossing the halfway line as they were thumped 4-0 in the capital by Hertha Berlin, the club’s fifth defeat in six since returning to the Bundesliga.
Achim Beierlorzer’s boys have fired blanks in each of their past three – all ending in defeat – and already shipped 15 goals. Of course, Koln have faced a devilishly difficult schedule with games against Bayern Munich, Dortmund, Wolfsburg, Gladbach and in-form Freiburg already, but there’s been little to shout about.
A trip to the Veltins Arena arguably couldn’t come at a worse time for the Billy Goats with confidence drained after back-to-back 4-0 thrashings, and if Schalke can find anything close to last weekend’s performance levels, a home win looks conclusive.
The Royal Blues are 1.83 with a -0.75 start and that’s an appalling play knowing money will be made should Wagner’s troops come out on top.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Schalke -0.75 at 1.830
Preview by: @MarkOHaire.