Match preview: Schalke v Cologne

Schalke v Cologne, Bundesliga, March 6, 2009

Seventh-placed Schalke 04 kick off the weekend’s action in the Bundesliga on Friday night against tenth-placed Cologne.

With the German league still wide open, it speaks volumes that Schalke are found wallowing in mid-table having failed miserably to live up to their high pre-season expectations. After an early Champions League exit, Schalke’s latest setback arrived in the cup on Wednesday night as they fell in the banana-skin tie to second-division Mainz.

Unless Schalke can find some form quickly in the league, European football next term will be nothing more than a pipe dream.

A forensic examination of Schalke’s performances this term reveals that Fred Rutten’s side actually boast the most miserly defence in league having just conceded just 21 goals all season (four less than Borussia Dortmund).

It has been up top where the problems have been found, Schalke proving impotent in front of goal with only 29 goals scored in 24 matches. With goals at a premium, Kevin Kuranyi will once again be relied upon to lead the front-line, while Halil Altintop and Gerald Asamoah will both be desperate to add more than their poultry four goals combined this season.

But being the hosts should give Schalke encouragement for Friday night, having dropped just nine points and conceded just six goals in front of their fans all season.

Making this match so difficult to predict though is the form of their opponents, Cologne. In eleven matches on the road this season, Cologne have won five, lost five and drawn one. And in doing so they have managed to score at least once in their last six away games.

Milivoje Novakovic has been Christoph Daum’s main source of goals the campaign, with the striker chalking up an impressive 12 goals in just 22 appearances. And having been out of the goals for a few weeks now, Schalke will be hoping that the Slovenian striker will have another off night. (Novakovic is 2/1 to score during the match.)

In the first half of the season Cologne narrowly defeated Schalke 1-nil. And if there was ever a team likely to poop on Schalke’s home parade, Cologne would be the team.

101gg predicts: Schalke 1 – Cologne 1 (7/1)

Alternative prediction: Under 2.5 goals in the game (10/11)

Full odds from on Schalke-Cologne here.