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Continue the upward trend! Bayern aim to defend lead at Schalke

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It's first vs. last! FC Bayern will kick off the second half of the season on Sunday afternoon against bottom club FC Schalke 04 (live text and Webradio commentary from 9:30 pm ET on However, Hansi Flick doesn't see things ahead of the game in Gelsenkirchen as clearly as the table appears to show them: “I think Schalke have a team and individual players – when you see the names – with quality that isn’t reflected in the table right now," said the 55-year-old. has put together everything you need to know about the clash at the start of the second half of the season.

The reverse fixture at the Allianz Arena was a clear-cut affair: Bayern's 8-0 thrashing of Schalke was their highest win of the season.

The situation for FC Bayern

With the two wins against Freiburg (2-1) and at Augsburg (1-0), the record champions found their way back to success and maintained their four-point lead at the top of the table. Even though it's not always been possible for the men from Munich to dominate their opponents over the full 90 minutes due to the large number of games in the current phase of the season, Flick sees the recent development as a positive one. "The players are able to deliver the kind of football we want again: Pressing and forcing the opposition to make mistakes," explained the boss, who has been particularly impressed by the "morale and mentality" of his players in recent games. They now intend to build on this against Schalke! "At FC Bayern, we want to win all our games," Flick stipulated.

Check out the best images in our gallery from Bayern's final training session before leaving for Schalke:

The opponents: FC Schalke 04

With one win from their last 33 Bundesliga games and just seven points in what has been the worst first half of a season in the club's history by far, the Royal Blues must turn things round as quickly as possible if they're to avoid being relegated for the first time in 33 years. "Schalke have their backs to the wall a bit. They've made a few signings now and I expect them to give it everything they have," said Joshua Kimmich, looking ahead to the clash. With the arrival of Sead Kolašinac (Arsenal) and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Ajax), there's a renewed sense of hope in Gelsenkirchen. But even with new players, securing a place in the relegation play-offs will be a mammoth task: After the last-minute defeat against direct rivals 1. FC Köln (2-1), the gap to the play-off spot is already eight points. But coach Christian Gross remains optimistic: "You always have a chance in football. The team still believes in the goal we have. We all know how tough it is, but we believe that we can achieve it together." 

Team news, tactics and more: You can watch Hansi Flick's pre-match press conference before the match at Schalke (with English translation) here:

Team news for Schalke vs. FC Bayern

Bayern will have to manage without short-notice absentee Corentin Tolisso. The Frenchman "is out, he had some muscle problems against Augsburg. We don't want to take any risks," said Flick. Apart from Tanguy Nianzou and Malik Tillman, who have been injured for some time, "all the players will be on board."

Schalke will most likely be able to call on returnee Kolašinac, whose injury in the Köln game turned out to be less serious than first thought. "It's looking good for him," said Gross. Huntelaar (following calf problems) and ex-Bayern player Alessandro Schöpf (following thigh problems) are also an "option." In contrast, defender Salif Sané is in danger of missing out with knee problems, and striker Gonçalo Paciência is not yet ready to return following knee surgery.

Tanguy Nianzou recently took the next step towards a comeback and is already training with the ball again.

What the coaches say

Hansi Flick: "I'm happy that we won the two games (Ed: Freiburg and Augsburg) to get back on track after two defeats. That led to us winning the so-called 'autumn championship' in January for the first time in FC Bayern's long history. Now we can concentrate on Schalke. I think Schalke have a team and individual players – when you see the names – with quality that isn’t reflected in the table."

Christian Gross (FC Schalke 04): "It's a new game, a new scenario, there are lots of eventualities. That's what makes football so attractive. It's important that we don't make any mistakes of our own. That was the case against Köln, and that led to us conceding two goals. But because of our points situation we also have to do more going forward. We have to show we can defend as a team and then take our chances up front."

If you want to know more ahead of the away game at Schalke, check out our facts and stats: