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 By Mark Lovell

Bayern Munich look to see off struggling Schalke

Mark Lovell looks at the talking points ahead of the Bundesliga's standout fixture as Bayern Munich travel to Gelsenkirchen to play Schalke 04 at the weekend.

Keller in crisis

The heat is on for Schalke and coach Jens Keller. Schalke were bundled out of the DFB-Pokal by third-division Dynamo Dresden and a sloppy opening league defeat to Hannover increased the pressure on Keller. Respected German weekly Sport Bild has claimed that Keller is even thinking of throwing in the towel.

Can Keller survive another brutal defeat against Bayern? Last season, the Royal Blues suffered emphatic 4-0 and 5-1 defeats. In fact, Bayern have prevailed in the teams' past seven Bundesliga duels, with the goal difference across those games 23-2 in favour of the Reds. Interestingly, both of Schalke's goals were own goals scored by Badstuber and ex-Schalke defender Rafinha. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has never scored against Bayern. Those stats are none too promising for Schalke and their under-fire coach.

Neuer returns home a world champion

The match will be an emotional fixture for former Schalke favourite Manuel Neuer as he goes back to his childhood club. Neuer is normally guaranteed a volatile reception from the home fans, but this visit is surely slightly different. Neuer returns to Gelsenkirchen as a World Cup-winning hero and should be assured of a warmer reception than is often the case. 

Will Gaudino retain his starting spot?

Gianluca Gaudino has been playing for Bayern since the ripe old age of 8, starring through the age groups all the way to the Holy Grail of the elite starting XI. After his sudden elevation from the youth side, the 17-year-old has not yet even signed a professional contract. Director of football Matthias Sammer has waxed lyrical, saying: "His development is unbelievable. He is playing exceptionally good football."

Jerome Boateng is available again after suspension to bolster the defence, so Gaudino may have to be content with a spot on the bench as Guardiola swaps Gaudino for skipper Philipp Lahm in midfield, while Boateng slots into a three-man defence alongside Holger Badstuber and Dante.

Jerome Boateng enjoyed a more successful World Cup than half-brother Kevin-Prince.

Battle of the Boatengs?

Jerome Boateng missed Bayern's opener through suspension. He had to be content to pick up his flowers as the full house in Munich welcomed back the World Cup winners. He is expected to return to the Bayern defence after sitting out his ban. Meanwhile, Kevin-Prince Boateng was criticised during the Royal Blues' sloppy defeat against Hannover. Honours were shared in the recent clash between the half-brothers in the World Cup -- Ghana and Germany shared a 2-2 draw, with both Boatengs being substituted. Kevin-Prince was sent home from Brazil in disgrace by Ghana and later watched Jerome collect a World Cup winner's medal for Germany.

Xabi in for Javi

Bayern have reacted to the serious ACL tear to Javi Martinez, the departure of Toni Kroos and the ongoing injury concern to stalwart Bastian Schweinsteiger by getting busy in the transfer market.

Medhi Benatia, a 27-year-old Moroccan defender, has signed from AS Roma. At a reported 26 million euros, Benatia is the fourth-most expensive signing in Bundesliga history, just five years after failing to impress on trial at minnows Freiburg.

Former Spain international Xabi Alonso is also on the verge of finalising a move to Bavaria on a two-year deal from Real Madrid. These acquisitions will hardly weaken an already strong squad.

Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.


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