Schalke's start to the 2018-19 season has been far from ideal. With the Champions League on the horizon, they need to bag their first win before their packed fixture list gets the better of them.
Schalke's second place finish last season re-inserted them into the upper echelon of German football. Not only was it higher than local rivals Borussia Dortmund, but it also qualified them for the Champions League for the first time since 2014-15.
However, a poor start to this season has thrown a spanner in the works. Schalke are among four clubs entering matchday 3 with no points, having lost to Wolfsburg and Hertha Berlin so far this season.
Unlike their companions on zero points — Freiburg, Leverkusen and Stuttgart — Schalke are set to begin a Champions League campaign next week that could further impact their Bundesliga season. Though their initial set of opponents — Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto and Galatasaray — are not the most difficult, the group stage is a six-game burden that can't help the domestic campaign.
Schalke's trip to Mönchengladbach is therefore all the more important. If they don't manage to get a result against the Foals, the packed schedule may make it more difficult to climb back up the Bundesliga table.
Defensive improvement needed
The Royal Blues are struggling at both ends of the pitch. They have scored just one goal in their first two games while conceding four. However, Schalke has not been a prolific team under Domenico Tedesco — ranking only sixth in goals scored last season en route to second place.
Defensive frailty is therefore more concerning. Tedesco did not have all hands on deck against Hertha as Matija Nastasic was serving a red card suspension and Benjamin Stambouli was injured.
Nastasic's return will certainly help matters, but Schalke's defense continues to suffer lapses in concentration. Sloppy turnovers and poor communication gave Wolfsburg and Hertha cheap scoring opportunities, several of which were converted.
The Royal Blues cannot afford to make those errors against Borussia Mönchengladbach, a team with quick, clinical forwards more than capable of capitalizing.
Not all doom and gloom
Though Schalke have a tough set of fixtures coming up — they face Bayern Munich next week, after their first Champions League match against Porto — they don't necessarily need to panic.
Tedesco's side finishes September with matches against Freiburg and Mainz, two sides that flirted with relegation last season. Should the worst case scenario come to pass and Schalke go pointless in their first four league games, those fixtures are good opportunities to kick-start their league campaign.
But no club wants to be bottom of the table after a month. It is therefore paramount that Schalke get on the front foot, starting on Saturday evening.
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga
— Leverkusen, also with no points to date, have a tough trip to Munich. Just what under-fire coach Heiko Herrlich needs!
— Adam Szalai is currently the Bundesliga's top scorer after scoring three goals in Hoffenheim's first two games. He will look to add to his tally as Hoffenheim heads to Düsseldorf.
— Fast-starters Wolfsburg and Hertha Berlin square off, both hoping to make it three wins from three against the odds.
Bundesliga Matchday 3
Borussia Dortmund vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (Friday, 8:30 p.m. CEST)
Bayern Munich vs. Leverkusen (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. CEST)
RB Leipzig vs. Hannover
Mainz vs. Augsburg
Wolfsburg vs. Hertha Berlin
Fortuna Düsseldorf vs. Hoffenheim
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Schalke 04 (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. CEST)
Werder Bremen vs. Nuremburg (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. CEST)
Freiburg vs. Stuttgart (Sunday, 6:00 p.m. CEST)