Both teams head into the encounter occupying the automatic relegation positions in the table after each suffering defeats last weekend.
Having amassed an impressive eight-match unbeaten run – albeit six of those of matches ended as draws, slowing their upwards movement in the table – back-to-back losses since returning from the recent international break have seen Schalke fall back to the bottom of the Bundesliga.
Thomas Reis’s side were dismantled 3-0 at home to Xabi Alonso’s high-flying Bayer Leverkusen, before an Alex Kral own goal and Ihlas Bebou’s dispatched penalty provided Hoffenheim with a crucial victory against their relegation rivals on Sunday.
Despite enjoying more possession than their opponents at Rhein-Neckar Arena, Die Konigsblauen struggled to create clear cut chances, with Reis admitting after the match that he “only saw one team that was invested in [the match], and that was Hoffenheim.”
The fact that the 49-year-old went on to bemoan his side’s lack of aggression in a crucial relegation battle does not bode well ahead of another hugely important clash against Hertha on Friday, but at least they will have a packed Veltins-Arena roaring them on in what has surely become a must-win match if they are to avoid an instant return to Germany’s second tier.
Hertha, meanwhile, managed to avoid relegation by coming from behind to beat Hamburger SV across a two-legged relegation play-off last season, but they are at risk of automatic relegation this time around after their 1-0 loss at home to RB Leipzig at the weekend.
In truth, the scoreline somewhat flattered Sandro Schwarz’s side, who were dominated by the Champions League qualification hopefuls throughout the course of the encounter. Leipzig controlled possession with 68% possession of the ball and registered six shots on target – including Amadou Haidara’s decisive 39th-minute strike – compared to Hertha’s solitary effort on goal.
Schwarz, whose job must surely be at risk – especially if his side fail to return to the capital with all three points on Friday evening – has now presided over five consecutive league games without securing a victory, although Saturday’s defeat at Olympiastadion was the first time that Die Alte Dame had failed to score in their last nine outings.
They will obviously need to avoid a repeat of that in Gelsenkirchen on Friday if they are to claim a crucial victory, with Stuttgart’s superior goal difference and one point advantage over them in the table meaning that both teams’ only realistic way out of the bottom two this weekend is to come out of the other side of the clash with a win.
We say: Schalke 04 1-1 Hertha Berlin
Neither team are likely to play to their full capabilities on Friday given their recent defeats and the amount at stake in this relegation battle, and we can envisage both sides aiming to keep themselves in the mix by playing out a low-scoring draw.