Schalke vs Dortmund: One troublesome link still tragically missing

Schalke 04, Omar Mascarell (Photo by Ralf Treese/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
Schalke 04, Omar Mascarell (Photo by Ralf Treese/DeFodi Images via Getty Images) /

Schalke 04 is coming back to health in a big way, but for as promising as that is, there is still one huge missing piece to the puzzle, and it’s all hands on deck to cope.

Schalke 04 fell into a rut before the pause chiefly because of injury problems. Their defense had managed to weather the storm as best they could, but the midfield fell to pieces with Omar Mascarell, Suat Serdar, and Weston McKennie flitting in and out of the midfield. This put an added strain on the defense and, well, that’s how really bad losses happen.

Thankfully, the defense looks to be nearly back to full health. Or at least the best possible health, as both Salif Sane and Ozan Kabak looked pretty agile in training, and the midfield is getting back to it too, with Serdar and McKennie in good health and ready to go in the Revierderby.

But the big missing link is Omar Mascarell.

Schalke doesn’t have Omar Mascarell, so who steps up in his absence?

Omar Mascarell is arguably the most important player in holding all this together. His hinge between defense and attack is vital in establishing stability and holding together the structure of it all.

The problem is that of all the players we were thrilled to see at Schalke training in the Revierderby build-up, Omar Mascarell was not one of them.

Without Mascarell, that defensive shield preventing attacks from getting right to the defense is flimsy at best. Weston McKennie and Suat Serdar both play the defensive side of the game well, but not the same way that Mascarell plays it. They’re box-to-box guys that will abandon their position to get forward—as well they should, that’s what they’re here to do—but it doesn’t do a lot for the structure of the team.

While Benjamin Stambouli isn’t available due to his own injury, it wouldn’t be completely ridiculous to think that he could play a defensive midfield role if he can return to health before Mascarell. But that’s thinking ahead.

Even with Dortmund’s own injury problems, with lacking Axel Witsel and Emre Can and potentially a few more, Schalke has to figure out a way to dominate this midfield and without Mascarell’s dominance from deep, that becomes a much bigger test.

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Finding stability in the midfield has to be the top priority (followed not far behind by figuring out this attack), and the first step there is defending the defense, as silly as that sounds. However that happens, it has to happen.