Schalke go head to head with 1. FC Köln in Saturday’s late kick off. The home side will be looking to continue their fantastic recent run and will be buoyed by the result they managed to rescue last week in a seemingly hopeless situation.
At half-time last week, they were 4-0 down to their Ruhr rivals, Borussia Dortmund and in a desperate predicament. However, in a remarkable and dramatic comeback they snatched a 4-4 draw in stoppage time which would have felt like a victory. It also extended their unbeaten run to eight games in all competitions which has seen them rise to third place in the Bundesliga table.
Perhaps the least said about Köln’s season the better. A return of just two points from their opening 13 games tells its own sorry tale. Already nine points adrift of Freiburg in the relegation play-off spot, only a spectacular upturn in form will prevent the Billy Goats sliding back to 2. Bundesliga.
To add to their woes, they have a lengthy injury list which is unhelpful and includes key players Jonas Hector and record signing Jhon Cordoba, the man who was brought into replicate the goals of Anthony Modeste, who moved to China last summer.
In-form Schalke could well be unchanged for the visit of Köln. There could be the temptation to start with Leon Goretzka who made his welcome return from the bench last week against Dortmund.
Bottom side Köln have been decimated by injuries and have contributed to the poor position they occupy in the table. They will continue to be without long-term absentees Hector and Cordoba. Also missing will be first-teamer’s Dominique Heintz, Simon Zoller, Dominic Maroh, Marco Höger, Christian Clemens and Marcel Risse.
Leon Goretzka (Schalke): The 22-year-old midfielder was in great goal scoring form when an injury kept him out of Schalke’s last four games, before coming on as a first-half substitute in the infamous Revierderby last week. The much coveted player has seven goals to his name this season, four of which have come in the Bundesliga. The classy Bochum born man is out of contract at the end of this season and is free to speak to overseas clubs from the start of 2018. There will be a clamour for his signature, should he decide to move on and Arsenal, Liverpool and Barcelona have all been linked with him in recent weeks.
Goretzka starts on the bench for Schalke.
Sehrou Guirassy (FC Köln): The 21-year-old French striker has not been prolific this season, which will come as no surprise in a team that has struggled so badly. Nevertheless, with an injury to Cordoba, it has given Guirassy an opportunity that he would not have expected. He has hit the back of the net four times so far this season. He would have endeared himself to supporters of the Billy Goats when putting them in front in the Rhein Derby against Leverkusen, in a game that ultimately ended in defeat. Guirassy was however the match winner when converting a penalty in the Europa League game against Arsenal.
With more and more minutes on the pitch, Köln will be hoping that Guirassy can develop into a more prolific striker.
The difference in the form table could hardly be more stark and with Köln decimated by injuries, a trip to the Veltins Arena will be a daunting prospect for them. It is difficult to make any case for anything other than a home victory.
Schalke 4-0 FC Köln
By Jonathan Shelley.