Season preview: Schalke 04

Season preview: Schalke 04
© PA Photos
Sports Mole looks ahead to coming months in the Bundesliga for Jens Keller's Schalke 04.

With the new Bundesliga season beginning this weekend, Sports Mole casts its eye over Schalke 04's summer and their prospects for the 2013-14 campaign.

In:

Leon Goretzka (VfL Bochum), Adam Szalai (FSV Mainz 05), Christian Clemens (FC Koln), Felipe Santana (Borussia Dortmund)

Out:

Philipp Hofmann (FC Ingolstadt, loan), Sergio Escudero (Getafe), Jose Manuel Jurado (Spartak Moscow), Christoph Moritz (FSV Mainz 05), Christoph Metzelder (retired)

Last Season: 4th

Manager: Jens Keller

Three key players:


Schalke's Benedikt Howedes on November 6, 2012© PA Photos
Benedikt Howedes - Keller may have acquired the services of Felipe Santana from Borussia Dortmund, but it would be a huge surprise if the Brazilian claimed Howedes's place in the starting lineup. The 25-year-old is Schalke's captain and is a real favourite of the supporters, having come through the youth ranks at the Veltins-Arena. The German international has a reputation of being a solid centre-back who rarely loses a contest in the air. It's that trait that has seen him score 17 times in a blue shirt.


Julian Draxler scores the equaliser for Schalke on December 1, 2012© AP Photos
Julian Draxler - At this present moment in time, there are few brighter prospects in European football than Draxler. There was a lot of pressure placed on the 19-year-old's shoulders when Lewis Holtby left for Tottenham Hotspur in January of this year, but the attacking midfielder took it all in his stride. If anything, his performance level improved. He ended the season with 10 Bundesliga goals from midfield and 12 in all competitions. Dortmund were believed to be extremely interested in his services, but he made himself a hero among the Schalke faithful by signing a two-year contract extension earlier this summer.


Klaas-Jan Huntelaar celebrates with Christian Fuchs© PA Photos
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar - For whatever reason, the Dutch international was not at his prolific best last season. While 10 goals in 26 outings would be a respectable return for some strikers, it marked a disappointing showing from Huntelaar, such is the standards that he has previously set. What could significantly aid the 29-year-old is the arrival of Adam Szalai, who has been tipped to partner Huntelaar. It should mean that defenders will have two Schalke strikers to concentrate on, rather than just one.

First game: Hamburger SV, Complete fixture list

Sports Mole says: They may have left it late, but the Miners managed to finish in the final Champions League place last season. This time around, the expectation is that they should repeat that feat. With a squad containing the three players mentioned above, as well as the likes of Jefferson Farfan, Jermaine Jones and Kyriakos Papadopoulos, there is no reason to suggest that they cannot finish within the top four. Their chances would be boosted significantly if Huntelaar can rediscover the scoring boots that helped him to find the net 48 times in as many appearances during the 2011-12 campaign.

Predicted finish: 4th

Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino before his side's match at Norwich on March 9, 2013
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2Hoffenheim6420115614
3Bayern Munich6411145913
4Hannover633062412
5Augsburg632184411
6RB Leipzig6312107310
7Schalke 04Schalke630378-19
8Hertha Berlin62226608
9Borussia MonchengladbachBorussia M'bach6222811-38
10Bayer LeverkusenB. Leverkusen6213121027
11Eintracht FrankfurtFrankfurt621345-17
12Stuttgart621337-47
13Wolfsburg613258-36
14Mainz 056204610-46
15Hamburger SV6204411-76
16Freiburg604229-74
17Werder Bremen603337-43
18FC Koln6015113-121
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