FC Schalke 04 will likely have Matija Nastasic in the starting lineup on Saturday against Werder Bremen after the center back missed time with an Achilles’ injury, and fans will be excited to see what he can bring to the table at the heart of Die Knappen’s defense.
Although FC Schalke 04 have lost their two starting center backs to significant injuries, they should still have one of the Bundesliga’s best defensive partnerships.
Youngster Ozan Kabak has already looked like a steal, scoring twice in his first two starts and showing encouraging defensive capabilities in Benjamin Stambouli’s absence. And while Weston McKennie received starts at center back when Salif Sane went down, Schalke will have a more natural defender ready to make his return to the lineup.
Matija Nastasic hasn’t played a full 90 minutes since August in a 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich, but he looks poised to get the start on Saturday at the Weserstadion when Schalke face 2019-2020 disappointments Werder Bremen.
At seventh in the table, Schalke need to grab three points over Werder in order to make a push towards a Champions League spot. They dropped points two weeks ago in a 3-3 tie at home to rivals Fortuna Dusseldorf, and after allowing two goals in the previous match to Augsburg, the Royal Blues need to tighten up defensively.
Their defense is their strength, so Schalke must play to their strengths against a Werder side that is more dangerous in attack with the likes of Milot Rashica.
Nastasic should be key in that effort. The 26-year-old Serbian was once a top prospect for Manchester City and has been effective for Schalke when on the pitch. He was excellent on Matchday 1 against current league leaders Monchengladbach, showing signs of the form he flashed in 2014-2015 when he first moved to Gelsenkirchen from the Premier League.
If Nastasic can have a great game on Matchday 12, then Schalke will be well on their way defensively with Nastasic and Kabak teaming up. Both men have immense talent, and while it’s hard to expect excellence from Nastasic immediately after an injury, strong performances from both players could help Schalke continue their push towards Champions League qualification.
That is the clear expectation for the Royal Blues, but they will need their defense to continue to lead the way towards success, even without Stambouli and Sane as key leaders a the back line.
It’s time for Nastasic and Kabak to show that despite their youth, they have the qualities and intangibles to lead the way.