Schalke vs Krasnodar will take place at the Veltins-Arena on Thursday, and should be a fascinating matchup between the two best teams of Group I. Both teams faced each other on matchday 3, with Schalke taking the tree points at newly opened Krasnodar Stadium.
Yevhen Konoplyanka’s fabulous strike in the 10th minute was the only goal that separated the two sides when they met on October 20. Schalke, thereby, became one out of just three teams that have won the three opening matches of the Europa League this season—the other two are Zenit, and Shakhtar.
The result also means that Schalke could advance to the next round with a victory, or with a draw, if Nice fail to win against Red Bull Salzburg. Furthermore, after starting the Bundesliga season with five losses, Schalke have clawed their way up from the bottom of the Bundesliga table, and they showed real determination in a 0-0 draw against their archrivals Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.
Krasnodar, meanwhile, also had a poor start to the season, but they have found their rhythm under new coach, Igor Shalimov. A 0-0 draw against Anzhi Makhachkala on the weekend means, however, that Krasnodar are now fifth in the Russian Football Premier League, eight points off the leaders Spartak Moscow, and Zenit Saint Petersburg.
At the same time, they are in a pack of teams, which includes the likes of Terek Grozny and CSKA Moscow, that will be ready to pounce on the chance to step back into the title race should Spartak or Zenit start dropping points. With Fedor Smolov, Krasnodar have one of the most exciting players in the Russian Football Premier League, as the striker leads the scoring chart in Russia with eight goals in 12 matches.
In the Europa League, Krasnodar have also demonstrated that they are as strong a contender as last season when they won their group that included Schalke’s rivals Borussia Dortmund. Krasnodar won their opening match against Red Bull Salzburg 0-1, and then went on to defeat OGC Nice 5-2.
Indeed Futbolgrad predicted before the group stage kicked off that Krasnodar will be one of the two teams advancing from Group I. With this in mind, the game on Thursday will be one of the top matches of matchday 4, especially as Krasnodar will be looking for revenge for their 1-0 home defeat from matchday 3.
Futbolgrad’s Prediction: Schalke vs Krasnodar 2-0
FC Schalke 04:
Fährmann – Naldo, Nastasić, Höwedes, – Kolasinac, Goretzka, Geis, Bentaleb, Schöpf – Di Santo, Konoplyanka
Manager: Markus Weinzierl
Kritsyuk – Petrov, Granqvist, Naldo, Jedrzejczyk – Kabore, Gazinsky – Joãozinho, Akhmedov, Podberezkin – Smolov
Manager: Igor Shalimov