Michael Gregoritsch made a dream debut for FC Schalke 04 in their Rückrunde opener against Borussia Mönchengladbach, but fans shouldn’t expect Jean-Clair Todibo to be thrown into the fire for a debut against Bayern München this weekend.
FC Schalke 04 have their sights set on a Champions League berth this season after making it to the knockout stages of the tournament last year despite doing poorly in the Bundesliga. The Royal Blues have a talented enough squad to do damage in European competition next season, as they showed last Friday in a dominant 2-0 victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach despite not having star man Amine Harit.
Instead, it was FC Augsburg loanee Michael Gregoritsch who showed why he was once one of the Bundesliga’s best young players, as he assisted once and scored once in a dream debut at the Veltins Arena.
Gregoritsch wasn’t the only high-profile player to join Schalke as a loanee this January. The Royal Blues also secured the services of another – and better – FC Barcelona defender in center back Jean-Clair Todibo, who hopes to make his debut this weekend.
Schalke’s Matchday 19 opponent? None other than Bayern München, whom the Royal Blues will face on Saturday at 18:30 CET at the Allianz Arena. Bayern already owned Schalke at the Veltins earlier this season, so David Wagner’s side will need to be at their best.
As talented as Todibo is and as much as the team will want to get him on the pitch to contribute on this loan deal, it’s probably best if Schalke sit Todibo on the bench for this game. A debut at the Allianz Arena is not an easy spot for any young player, but that’s especially true for a young center back who hasn’t played a league game in nearly four months.
Todibo has a world of potential at age 20 and could become a world-class center back for Barcelona or Schalke, depending on how his loan deal transpires. But right now, it’s hard to argue he’s the best option at center back with Matija Nastasic healthy.
Nastasic has consistently played well this season when on the pitch, even though he’s struggles with knee and Achilles’ injuries. He kept Marcus Thuram, Alassane Plea, and Breel Embolo under wraps last Friday alongside Ozan Kabak, who has been the league’s best defender since joining the starting lineup.
If something were to happen to Nastasic on Saturday – and Schalke have dealt with in-game injuries at center back before – then Todibo would get his chance to face Robert Lewandowski and Bayern’s formidable attack.
But starting Todibo in such a match? That’s highly unlikely, especially since Nastasic and Kabak are playing so well together. However, Schalke will face Hertha Berlin twice after the Bayern game in both the DFB Pokal and Bundesliga, so Wagner should experiment with Todibo as the starter over Nastasic to give the higher injury-risk center back some rest. This change should enable Schalke to evaluate Todibo fairly on his debut, and it will be less overwhelming for him.