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Bundesliga Season Preview: Schalke







With the start of a very exciting Bundesliga season upon us, kickbola previews two teams daily as a part of our build-up. Today, we present Schalke 04...


With the Bundesliga kickoff just over two weeks away, a poll of all 18 Bundesliga managers revealed a unanimous opinion that Bayern Munich will take their second consecutive title. Indeed, Bayern is always a threat to win the Bundesliga. However, the coming season may well see Schalke lift their first Bundesliga trophy since 1958. After last year’s Bundesliga results—Schalke finished 3rd, 12 points behind Bayern and 2 behind Werder Bremen—it would at first appear difficult to place Schalke as favorites. However, Schalke will surely benefit from a number of advantages that have been made apparent in recent months.

First off, Bayern are back in the Champions’ League and, having won the Bundesliga last year, there is less pressure upon them to assert domestic dominance. Bayern will want to make a significant impact in Europe and may sacrifice league performance for such glory. Additionally, the fact that Schalke are scheduled to face rivals Bremen in just the second week of the season means that, while they will be without right-back Rafinha (Olympics), they will face a Bremen team without talismanic playmaker Diego (Olympics) and centre-back Per Mertesacker (injury).

More importantly, Schalke have benefited from a very successful transfer campaign. Having received an estimated €40 million windfall by reaching last year’s Champions’ League quarter-finals, Schalke were able to invest in striker Jefferson Farfan and defensive midfielder Orlando Engelaar. The presence of Farfan will surely ease the burden on the shoulders of striker Kevin Kuranyi, whose form has often determined his team’s success. Indeed, Schalke’s current striking contingent (aside from Kuranyi) has produced just 59 goals in a combined 346 appearances, whereas Kuranyi has produced 40 goals in just 96 appearances. Kuranyi can expect help from Farfan, who scored 71 goals in 162 appearances for PSV Eindhoven. Engelaar, on the other hand, almost comes as a surplus: Schalke already have defensive midfielders Jermaine Jones and Fabian Ernst. However, Ernst is capable of playing on the right flank, leaving room for Engelaar to accompany Jones in a central role. Engelaar’s imposing size (1.98 metres) will be put to great use on set plays, and his knack for feeding the ball to strikers from a deep position will be a great asset for Schalke, who finished 6th in goals scored during last year’s Bundesliga campaign.

Engelaar wasn’t Schalke’s only signing from FC Twente: joining him will be Fred Rutten, perhaps this year’s most important signing for the Gelsenkirchen side. With him, Rutten brings a possession-based attacking game that is uncommon in the Bundesliga. At his disposal is a great deal of young talent that still has room for growth, including Rafinha (23), Farfan (23), defenders Heiko Westermann and Christian Pander (both 24), left-winger Ivan Rakitic (20), and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer (22). If the Schalke squad is able to adopt the philosophies that brought success to Rutten’s Twente, we may see the Bundesliga title lifted in Gelsenkirchen for the first time in 50 years. An exciting campaign lies ahead of us!

Quick Facts

Coach: Fred Rutten
Stadium: Veltins-Arena (61,482)
2007/08 Position: 3rd
2007/08 Record: P-34 W-18 D-10 L-6 F-55 A-32 P-64
Players In: Orlando Engelaar (Twente), Jefferson Farfan (PSV Eindhoven)
Players Out: Zlatan Bajramovic (Frankfurt), Mimoun Azaouagh (Bochum), Soren Larsen (Toulouse)
Possible Line-Up: Neuer-Rafinha, Bordon, Westermann, Pander-Ernst, Jones, Engelaar-Farfan, Kuranyi, Rakitic

Prognosis:

Schalke are sure to step up their domestic performance this year. Rutten was well loved in Enschede for his work at FC Twente, and he will surely bring success to Gelsenkirchen. That said, 50 years is a very long time to go without winning a Bundesliga title, and Schalke’s nerve may expire late in the season. Recalling their last-minute loss of the title in 2001, it’s too difficult to predict a first-place finish for Schalke.

Bundesliga Season Preview: Schalke Reviewed by admin Ucop on 6:24 AM Rating: 5

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