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RB Leipzig held Bayern Munich to a 1-1 draw as the Bundesliga resumed on Friday
Schalke are at risk of getting cut adrift at the bottom of the Bundesliga standings
RB Leipzig can build on the positivity of Friday’s result with a victory in midweek
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The Royal Blues are enduring a dismal season and Leipzig can compound their misery in the midweek round of fixtures.
Back RB Leipzig to beat Schalke by at least two goals on Tuesday. (+150)
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This time five years ago, Schalke were well on course to finishing as Bundesliga runners-up behind Bayern Munich. How the mighty have fallen. One of the founding members of Germany’s top flight in 1963, the Royal Blues are now in grave danger of a second relegation in three years.
Their demotion in 2020/21 came at the end of a chaotic campaign in which Schalke got hardly anything right. No fewer than four managers led the team on the touchline that year - and five if you include Huub Stevens, who had a brief spell in interim charge just before Christmas.
None of the quartet got much right. Schalke lost 24 of their 34 matches and tasted victory on just three occasions. They amassed only 16 points. Koln, the team that ended the season in the relegation play-off spot, accumulated more than double that amount.
History could be about to repeat itself. After winning promotion as Bundesliga 2 champions last term, the assumption was that Schalke would consolidate their top-flight status this season before kicking on in 2023/24, with a view to eventually becoming European contenders again.
Alas, an instant return to the second tier is now the most likely outcome according to commentators and the best online sportsbooks alike. As we approach the midway point of the season, Schalke have just nine points to their name. At the same stage of their dire 2020/21 campaign, they had only two fewer.
There is still time to turn the situation around and a six-point gap to safety is not insurmountable. But right now Schalke look out of their depth, and a run of nine defeats in their last 10 Bundesliga outings does not exactly inspire confidence in their ability to clamber out of trouble.
Facing Bayern Munich is the ultimate test for any Bundesliga team, so the fact that RB Leipzig were disappointed not to have beaten the champions on Friday shows how far this team has come.
Leipzig have established themselves as one of the league’s leading lights in recent years, and their DFB-Pokal triumph last term gave the club its first major trophy. But after Domenico Tedesco, the architect of that success, departed after a poor start to the current campaign, it seemed like Leipzig would have to temper their expectations for 2022/23.
Not so. Tedesco’s replacement, Marco Rose, has made an instant impact at the Red Bull Arena. When he took charge, Leipzig were in the bottom half of the Bundesliga. They are now up to fifth and have the joint-best record in the division alongside Bayern since Rose assumed control.
Leipzig were the better team when they locked horns with the champions last time out. They created the better chances and will have felt they did enough to win the game, with Bayern boss Julian Nagelsmann agreeing with Michael Ballack’s assessment that his team were “average”.
Despite their vast improvement, Leipzig cannot afford to take their foot off the gas: they are still outside the top four as the midway mark of the season approaches.
Champions League soccer should be there for the taking for Leipzig. Still, the race to finish in the three spots behind Bayern looks set to be hotly contested, with Borussia Dortmund, Eintracht Frankfurt, Union Berlin, Freiburg, and Wolfsburg all currently in the mix as well.
One of the reasons Schalke employed four different managers in 2020/21 is that they lost control of the season. The board was simply reacting to events and their decisions were usually poorly thought out.
It is therefore partly understandable that Schalke want to avoid bouncing between multiple different coaches this term, but Thomas Reis must be beginning to fear for his job. Since he took over at the VELTINS-Arena in late October, Schalke have lost four of their five games.
Reis has not yet had enough time to turn the situation around, and it would probably be premature for Schalke to pull the trigger right now. But if results have not turned around by the middle of next month, Reis could find himself out of work.
Leipzig have the chance to compound Schalke’s misery on Tuesday, and we fancy their chances of doing exactly that. Rose’s side are lethal on the counter-attack and, if they take the lead here, there should be plenty of space for them to exploit in transition.
The Royal Blues have lost no fewer than seven matches by two goals or more this season, while three of Leipzig’s last four wins have been by that margin.
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Teams: Schalke vs RB Leipzig
Location: VELTINS-Arena, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
Time: Tuesday 24 January 2023, 12.30pm EST
How to Watch: ESPN+
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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