After defeating Bayern at the Allianz last week, defending Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund will look to extend their run of form against Ruhr rivals Schalke 04 at the Westfalenstadion. This always interesting match will this year be given the extra tablespoon of paprika courtesy of the presence of both Dortmund and Schalke at the business end of the herbstmeister table, and a Marko Marin sized disparity in points between the two Rhein clubs and league leaders Bayern Munich. As such, Germany’s greatest football derby is raring up to be a momentous occasion.
In honour of such a monumental occasion, Borussia have chosen to wear a special kit emblazoned with the watermark of Signal Iduna Park in black, almost as if the sun was setting on that great stadium just as it would be on Dortmund’s title chances in the event of a resounding Schalke victory. This shirt, just like BVB’s third kit, and their special champions league shirt, could be seen as a cheesy marketing gimmick, another brazen attempt to fleece the supporters of whatever cash they have in a time of great economic chaos, but nothing could be farther from the truth. This shit (by the beard of Paul Breitner, spell check just isn’t what it used to be) is in fact a brave, Daniel Bruhl-ian stand against the vicious beast of capitalism. I’m not going to elaborate on that last statement, I’m just going to stick with it and hope for the best.
In recent weeks, Schalke have been on a typically Schalkian run of erratic and yet quality form. Die Königsblauen have been ravaged by injury, losing not only their captain Benedikt Höwedes, but also the influential winger Jefferson Farfan, central midfielder Peer Kluge, and possibly the imaginatively nicknamed and in form striker Klaas-Jan “The Hunter” Huntelaar. All this makes for a pessimistic atmosphere among the Schalke supporters ahead of the season’s first revierderby. Though I doubt anyone in Gelsenkirchen would want him back, Schalke are missing their crucial weapon in their relative success against Dortmund last year, as Felix Magath, now at Wolfsburg, will be unavailable to save a few scraps of local pride by tactically masterminding a bore draw.
It is not only Schalke struggling with injury problems. Despite a rediscovery of the form that led them to a title last year, capping a strong recent run off with a definitive (i.e, they played like the quality of their derby shirts and still won) dripping-maraschino-cherry-on-the-top-of-the-cake win against Bayern, disaster has the struck the Schwarzgelben. Dortmund have lost Sven Bender, a veritable Walter Cronkite in midfield, who will be out for a few months after Thomas Vermaelen made significant advances in the fields of horticulture through his experimental tackle performed on the Bavaria-born midfielder’s face in a 2-1 Champions league loss against Arsenal, placing them on the verge of elimination from that competition as well as picking up another knock on his knee. To compound the Nevsky Prospekt* levels of misery in Dortmund, Mario Götze was also a victim of a combine harvester injury and had to be taken off, though it is thought that he will be available for the revierderby.
With all these factors playing their role, I envision this week’s revierderby as a classic to be remembered for the ages, a breathtaking coruscation of attacking football that will truly be fitting of a monumental occasion of football such as this. As with last week’s Dortmund preview, I will retrieve my crystal ball from whatever dusty enclave it has hidden itself in, and give you an exclusive summary of the match before it happens.
The match will start off at a slow pace, with both sides feeling out the opposition for the first five minutes. It will be from then on that, spurred on by a narrow miss off the post from Lukasz Piszczek, the game will take on a new attacking dimension, with both sides relentlessly committing men forward in a desperate bid to put one up over their rivals. The first blow will be struck by Schalke’s interim captain Raul, scoring a relentless screamer past the helpless Weidenfeller in the 20th minute. This goal will take all the life out of Dortmund, who narrowly escape Schalke attack after Schalke attack for the next 20 minutes with a large slice of poor finishing from the Gelsenkircheners. A way back into the game is offered by a 42nd minute goal for the Schwarzgelben, somehow bungled into the net by Kevin Grosskreutz. A revitalized Dortmund poor forth in waves, with Kagawa adding to the score via a nicely worked through ball that he had no way of failing to slot past the keeper just before the half, to make it 2-1.
At the half, Huub Stevens throws caution to the wind and subs on both of his strikers in Teemu Pukki and Klaas Jan Huntelaar, to immediate satisfaction, as Huntelaar taps in an equalizer after a near post cross from the Finnish model. Roles are then reversed after the Hunter assists Pukki only five minutes later, to make the score 3-2. Borussia are not troubled, netting a superb equalizer off of a Piszczek (I should really choose a considerably easier to spell player as such a pivotal point of focus) sparked counterattack through the audacious medium of a Marcel Schmelzer banana shot in the 65th minute. Tempo is knocked off it’s f**king perch for another fifteen minutes before Robert Lewandowski scores a heavily mediocre tap-in off of a counterattacking scintillation. The Royal Blues push men forward for the remaining ten minutes in a reckless bid for an equalizer, but are denied by some rigorously disciplined Dortmund defensive work. The game is put to rest exactly on the 90th minute after Mats Hummels doubles the lead for Dortmund with a header from a corner. It is a game that leaves a lasting impression on the crowd of 80,000 gathered at the Westfalenstadion, and though one of the ballboys later goes on to captain the treble winning Dortmund side of 2034, playing in a similar contest in the champions league final, he always says that this game was the best he had ever watched, and considers Teemu Pukki as the most excellent player to ever play the game. Would I lie to you?
*Nevsky Prospekt was a warm and delightful short story by the Ukrainian writer Nikolai Gogol in which the unnamed hero (let’s call him Dortmund), a hopeless romantic toiling away in the Russian Civil Service and his more realistic mate (I. E, Schalke) go off chasing skirts in the glistening Petersburg night. Our romantic hero’s similarly unnamed skirt (the champions league) transpires to be a prostitute, to the disgust of the romantic clerk. He returns to his miniscule dwelling, disappointed, and falls into a slumber where he dreams of her as a woman of high moral repute and wealth. He attempts to replicate this dream by taking Adrian Mutuesque portions of opium. After a few months of this sort of thing, he returns to the brothel where the woman lives, and proposes marriage to her. She turns him down, mocking him, and he returns to his small home and slits his throat. No one comes to his funeral. Gogol then goes on to tell the story of his more realistic companion, belting out a few thunderous German stereotypes along the way. It is generally considered by scholars to be one of his lighter works, though Christmas Eve probably would take that dubious accolade.
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