Niko Kovac warns Bayern Munich against underestimating Schalke

Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac is not underestimating the threat of Schalke despite a poor start to the Bundesliga campaign from last season’s runners-up.

The Royal Blues were Bayern’s closest rivals in 2017-18 – albeit finishing 21 points adrift – but three consecutive losses mean they are yet to get off the mark this term.

In contrast, the Bavarians have made a formidable start as they chase a seventh successive league crown, sweeping aside Hoffenheim, Stuttgart and Bayer Leverkusen.

Nevertheless, Kovac warned his players against treating Schalke lightly as he told a press conference: “We want to pick up where we left off last week against Leverkusen.

“I’m expecting an aggressive, intense match. It’s not going to be easy. We have to live up to our full potential, and if we do we’ll win.”

All eyes will be on Leon Goretzka as he returns to the Veltins-Arena for the first time since ending his five-year stay at Schalke to join Bayern in the summer.

The midfielder said in quotes on Bayern’s website: “I’m looking forward to returning to Gelsenkirchen and hope to see the lads again, compete with them and play at the arena.

“It’s a special game for me.”

Fellow midfielder Renato Sanches boosted his hopes of retaining a starting berth after scoring against his old club Benfica on Wednesday as Bayern began their Champions League campaign with a 2-0 win.

It was a first appearance for Sanches, who endured a miserable campaign on loan at Swansea last season, for Bayern since August 2017 but he can expect more over the next few weeks.

Kovac said: “Renato did very well against Benfica. He justified the faith we have put in him and he will play regularly in the coming weeks.”

Thiago Alcantara returned to training on Friday after missing the Benfica clash with a toe injury and is in contention to feature this weekend.

Schalke’s hopes of springing an upset are hampered by their recent form and their record against Bayern, who have not lost to their next opponents since March 2011, a run of 16 fixtures.

But head coach Domenico Tedesco said: “Defeats are not a burden. That’s not how we tick. We are very much looking forward to the game.

“The lads are very composed and focused, they have a certain respect for the current situation.”

Schalke did at least stop their run of defeats in 1-1 draw at home to Porto in the Champions League in midweek and Tedesco believes the Gelsenkirchen supporters could have a role to play against Bayern.

He added on Schalke’s official website: “We are looking forward to taking on Bayern

“It’s another home game and we experienced against Porto how amazing the fans in this stadium are.”

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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