Schalke host Gladbach in Bundesliga battle for third spot

Two of the Bundesliga’s European hopefuls will clash at the Veltins-Arena as Schalke, 11/8 favourites with Coral, host Borussia Monchengladbach in a fight for third spot and a place in next season’s Champions League.

With Bayern Munich dominantly sitting at the summit of this season’s German top-flight table and Wolfsburg trailing closely behind, third position is up for grabs, with Roberto Di Matteo’s men contesting Gladbach for the coveted European football place.

This will be the third game in six days for each side, following the Bundesliga’s resumption, with neither the Gelsenkirchen club or the Foals having been toppled since this year’s restart.

Former Chelsea coach Di Matteo has guided his side to sixth spot so far this term, only two points behind their German opponents who currently occupy third.

Lucien Favre’s Gladbach, 15/8 to win, have enjoyed a successful New Year, claiming a maximum six points from their last two fixtures by securing 1-0 wins over Stuttgart and Freiburg. The Borussians are 9/1 to pick up a third consecutive narrow triumph by the same result.

Schalke’s return to domestic league action has also been impressive, edging past Hannover before brilliantly holding reigning champions and league leaders Bayern to a 1-1 draw on their travels.

Di Matteo’s return to the Allianz Arena during midweek was the first time he visited that ground since overseeing Chelsea’s Champions League triumph over Munich in 2012.

The former Blues boss’ star striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar missed the last outing as part of his six-game suspension, given to the deadly Dutchman for a horrific challenge during his side’s victory over Hannover.

Despite Huntelaar’s ban being reduced to four games following an appeal, he will still sit out of Gladbach’s visit, as well as clashes with Eintracht Frankfurt and Werder Bremen.

In the Dutchman’s absence, Di Matteo could call upon Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to lead the attacking line.

Cameroon’s ferocious forward struck against Gladbach last year and, after firing 10 times this term, the African Cup of Nations star is 5/1 to open proceedings on his comeback to club action.

The away side overcame Schalke in their reverse fixture last September, cruising to a comfortable 4-1 victory at Borussia Park. Terrific target man Max Kruse was on target in that home triumph, and is 11/5 to net anytime this time out.

Schalke could be without German starlet Julian Draxler following a troublesome thigh injury and may field Manchester City-owned centre back Matija Nastasic, who is on loan for the rest of the season.

Favre could include World Cup winning midfielder and reported Arsenal target Christoph Kramer in his team, as well as Ibrahima Traore, who has returned from African Cup duty with Guinea.

Thorgan Hazard, brother of Chelsea’s brilliant Belgian Eden Hazard, is also set to feature, and is 13/5 to net anytime, having scored his side’s winner against Hertha Berlin before the winter break.

Gladbach have won their previous three encounters with Schalke and another success will see a five-point gap open between the Champions League hopefuls in the Bundesliga table.

The home side are 4/1 to secure a victory to nil, having done so in their last league outing.