Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller says his side’s return to Bundesliga action after the international break will be “decisive” in their quest to retain the title.
The champions begin a sequence of eight fixtures in the space of a month with a difficult trip to Schalke, where they will face a side who have not won in their last six matches in all competitions.
Schalke, though, have lost just once at Veltins Arena in the league this season, and Muller expects Andre Breitenreiter’s side to be hungry for a scalp.
Muller told FC Bayern TV: “They will have their backs to the wall at home in front of their own fans.
“There are easier fixtures coming off the back of the international break.
“We have to take all three points. We are entering a decisive phase in the season.”
Bayern will be without midfielder Thiago Alcantara, who picked up a knee injury during Spain’s 2-0 friendly victory over England and is expected to be out for four weeks. He joins Franck Ribery (ankle), Mario Gotze (hamstring) and Juan Bernat (groin) in the treatment room.
Schalke coach Breitenreiter welcomed 10 internationals back to his squad with no new injury problems, but he will be unable to call on midfielder Johannes Geis, who is suspended for the visit of Bayern.
Breitenreiter conceded his side would need to be at their very best to claim a result against Bayern, saying: “We have to play with heart and passion. We need to try and have a faultless match.
“FC Bayern are one of the best teams in the world, with a lot of individual quality. Every mistake will be punished.
“It is absolutely necessary against Bayern that we can use our opportunities. We will have some chances and we want to use them.
“The fans will see players on the pitch who will give their hearts into the game. The team will play with passion and they’ll try to implement our plan in the best possible way.”
Following the announcement that matchday security at Veltins Arena will be stepped up for the match, Breitenreiter backed the decision for Bundesliga action to continue in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris.
He said: “There are many countries all over the world where it is not possible to live in freedom. We should never give our freedom up.
“That’s the reason why I’m convinced that it was the right decision that our game takes place.
“There is always the risk of an attack, so we have to trust our security authorities and especially we should trust security measures that the game can take place without any problem.”