Having taken 34 from a possible 36 points this season, Pep Guardiola's domineering Bayern Munich look unstoppable. But Saturday's opponents, Schalke, will put faith in their whizkids to do damage against the champions.
Although Schalke's form under head coach Andre Breitenreiter hasdipped in recent weeks,
the continued development of their homegrown clutch of young talents will evoke a smile in Gelsenkirchen.
Leroy Sane, Leon Goretzka and Max Meyer all got on the scoresheet for Germany's highly-talented under-21 side against Austria in midweek and return to their club full of confidence and form. Since establishing himself in the team in pre-season, Sane,who was originally called up for the full national team,
has scored five goals and recorded four assists in 18 matches in this campaign.
But it is the manner of the 19-year-old Sane's performances this is deeply impressive. Sane boasts great dynamism and speed, a characteristic that is almost gazelle-like in poise and balance when at full pelt.One-down in the derby at Borussia Dortmund
a fortnight ago, Sane impacted the game brilliantly, accelerating past Sokratis and putting the equalizer on a plate for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
While Sane marries explosive speed and creativity, teammate Meyer is a more perceptive option in possession. The 20-year-old Meyer is from the same breed of attacker that Spain have produced in recent years, an amalgam of masterful technique, incisive passing and awareness. However, with Breitenreiter preferring not to use a traditional 'No.10' attacking-midfielder, Meyer's abilities will be tested as he looks to adapt to the change in formation.
Meanwhile, Goretzka, a seven-figure signing from Bochum in 2013, is gradually beginning to hold down a starting place in midfield. Following a spate of injuries, the 20-year-old Goretzka looks to be in good shape and can occupy a role that has been filled by less-skilled players at Schalke in previous years. With Johannes Geis alongside him, Goretzka now could have room to thrive without the responsibility of being the defensive shield.
'An error-free performance'
As Bayern Munich prepare for their visit to the Veltins Arena, Breitenreiter is evaluating the same burning question that consumes the 16 other coaches who will line up their side to face the dominant leaders: How do we nullify Bayern Munich?
"Against Bayern Munich, we have to play without mistakes," the Schalke boss said. "Therefore, we want to make as few mistakes as possible. We all know that we're the underdogs. The Bayern team has a very high level of quality individually and they are one of the best teams in the world."
"Our strength is the collective," said captain Benedikt Höwedes. Bayern's defeat to Arsenal in the Champions League and their recent draw at Eintracht Frankfurt may offer an insight into what is most likely to thwart Guardiola's weaponry.
But if the David and Golliath tale explains anything, it's that the underdog has an advantage: unpredictability. With the intuitive genius of Sane and craft of Meyer on the pitch, Breitenreiter perhaps has two young players who could have the brashness to ask questions of Bayern.
Bundesliga Matchday 13 Fixtures:
Hamburg vs. Borussia Dortmund (Friday)
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Hannover (Saturday)
FC Cologne vs. Mainz
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Wolfsburg vs. Werder Bremen
Stuttgart vs. Augsburg
Schalke vs. Bayern Munich
Hertha Berlin vs. Hoffenheim (Sunday)
Ingolstadt vs. Darmstadt