VfL Wolfsburg have been the success story of the Bundesliga so far this season. With an undefeated run stretching back over the last ten games and nearly two calendar months across all competitions, they have positioned themselves well as the sole threats to Bayern Munich's title push. Sitting just four points off the top of the table, taking all three points against Schalke 04 is a must if they hope to maintain the pace Bayern Munich have set.
Schalke have continued the enigmatic form present under Jens Keller over to the Roberto di Matteo era. While clinical wins against Hertha BSC and Augsburg have buoyed them, their form has slipped in poor losses to Bayer Leverkusen, Freiburg and Sporting CP in the past month. Sitting 11th in the Bundesliga, they need to take points off high-flying Wolfsburg if they hope to climb back into the race for the Champions League places.
Key player -- Kevin de Bruyne
The Belgian attacking midfielder is the hub for the entire Wolfsburg attack. Surrounded by dynamic and complementary pieces, the 23-year-old makes the entire Wolfsburg work in concert and they need him at full throttle if they are going to break down the structured defense of Roberto di Matteo's Schalke.
Key matchup - Naldo vs. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Naldo has quietly been one of the most effective defenders in the Bundesliga for several seasons. He has been the rock on which the Wolfsburg defense is built and their main defensive weapon aside from Luis Gustavo. Going up against Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is always an exciting matchup for any centerback -- the Dutch striker is capable of producing just seconds of magic to turn entire matches on their head. Naldo's effective consistency against the bombast of Hunttelaar will be the true test of this match.
Schalke 04 injuries and suspensions
Out: Julian Draxler (thigh), Leon Goretzka (thigh), Sead Kolasinac (ACL), Dennis Aogo (yellow card accumulation).
VfL Wolfsburg injuries and suspensions
With no injuries of any notable impact, Wolfsburg are sitting pretty in the final run to the winter pause. With a fully loaded attacking lineup, they should run the gambit on a Schalke side missing two of its most potent offensive weapons: Julian Draxler and Leon Goretzka. The dual losses of those two left-sided attacking midfielders is a serious concern for di Matteo, and their replacement's (Erik Maxim Choupo-Moting) performances to date this season have been as varied as Schalke's form.
Match Date/Time: Saturday, 3:30 pm local, 9:30 am ET
Venue: Veltins Arena, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
TV: My German TV+ (USA), Sky Bundesliga 5 (Germany)
Online: Sky Go (Germany)