Even when two clubs are in contrasting form, it is always hard to call a fierce derby matches beforehand, and it’s much harder to do so when it’s what’s known as “the mother of all derbies.” Schalke started the season on the wrong foot, again and Borussia Dortmund had to rely on a late goal against cellar-dweller Stuttgart at home in the mid-week to spare a back-to-back defeats. But those storylines will matter little when the Revierderby is in town – local glory is at stake, in addition to three points.
Schalke is hoping to get the better of their neighbors, at least in the outcome of the two head-to-head matches, while Jurgen Klopp’s side hopes for more of the same from last season, in which Henrikh Mkhitaryan orchestrated an impressive display of Die Schwarzgelben in Veltins Arena.
But BVB have to accomplish this without their Armenian play-maker this time around, as he sustained a foot injury at Mainz, and will be absent from action for a month. Nuri Sahin, who scored a sublime strike at Schalke last term, underwent a knee operation in the pre-season, and Ilkay Gündogan is still not fully fit after spending a just over a year on the sidelines. Jakub Blaszczykowski is also unable to help his team out, because of injury. And, of course, there is Marco Reus, who suffered another injury setback after missing the World Cup in the summer. Last season, it was Dortmund’s backline which is affected by injuries, while this year it’s the midfield and attack that’s been decimated.
Speaking of defenders’ injury, Schalke exceed their fierce rivals, as regular starters Benedikt Höwedes, Sead Kolasinac and Dortmund’s former centerback Felipe Santana are all out with injuries Leon Goretzka and Jefferson Farfán are the other players not available for selection, and have yet to featured this season. Höwedes will not be the only player from the World Champion squad of the national team to miss out the clash of the Ruhr rivals, as Julian Draxler will serve the last of his two-matches ban following an eventful match against Eintracht Frankfurt in the weekend, where he scored Schalke’s equalizer before seeing red card in his birthday.
Seeking defensive stability
Hummels didn’t waste any time to express his discontent with BVB’s defending after they have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their first five league matches this season, already conceding nine goals. You might hear same worrying remarks at Schalke because of their injury issues, as Roman Neustädter had to fill at centerback alongside the inexperienced Kaan Ayhan.
It will be interesting to see Jurgen Klopp’s selection for the match in the defense with Hummels now raring to go after his heroics in Brazil. Meanwhile, Schalke’s new defensive partnership will have to deal with their toughest test of the early season after keeping their first clean sheet in the midweek at Bremen.
Slow start to the season
Jens Keller is already accustomed to working under immense pressure at Schalke, yet his position at the club has never seemed secure. A first-round exit at the hands of third-tier Dynamo Dresden in the cup, surrendering a lead at Hannover, and a heavy defeat at ‘Gladbach hint at his time at S04 possibly ending. However, Schalke finally took something from Bayern Munich on the road, which has been a lost cause in recent years, and S04 also pick up an unlikely point at Chelsea in the Champions League opener. Things got even better in the mid-week with three second-half goals, earning them their first league win of the season at the expense of Werder Bremen.
Dortmund also started their league campaign with a defeat – literally conceding a goal before any of their players touched the ball against Bayer Leverkusen thanks to Karim Bellarabi’s record-breaking strike in just nine seconds. They held on during a late surge by Augsburg to pick up their first win the following week, and Shinji Kagawa’s second debut at the club went great both for the club and the Japaneses wizard, as they comfortably got past Freiburg. But it was the other Shinji from Mainz who won the battle of the Japan Internationals when Dortmund suffered their second defeat in just four league matches to the season. This state of affairs could have been expanded, but for Ciro Immobile coming to the rescue with his first league goal, denying Stuttgart a famous win at Signal Iduna Park.
Immobile opened his account earlier in the Champions League with a well-crafted strike that helped Dortmund to a magnificent win against Arsenal. Beyond the scoreline, Jurgen Klopp’s side produced their best performance of the early season despite, more often than not, selling their star players. News players are present though. Besides the Italian international, Adrian Ramos will also hope to impress in his first Ruhr derby.
Schalke, on the other hand, expect better things from German International Sidney Sam, whose performance so far is not in the same level with his spectacular showing in last season’s Hinrunde at Leverkusen. Schalke ended up not signing a left-back after knowing Sead Kolasinac’s injury will keep him out of the side until February, which gives Christian Fuchs a second chance to prove himself. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting saw better playing times at Schalke than in Mainz, but he doesn’t seem to improve the last season’s squad by much.
One thing that Schalke undoubtedly profited from through Choupo-Moting’s acquisition is his precision in taking penalty-kicks, which cost them dearly in last season’s corresponding encounter, when Kevin-Prince Boateng failed to level the score from the spot. Indeed, it was the Yellow-Blacks who got the bragging rights with a comprehensive win at Schalke and a goalless draw in Dortmund last season, but the six-points they picked up against their heated rivals a season earlier is still fresh in the memory of the Royal Blues’ fans. The build-up for arguably the most-anticipated match of the season so far is heated, with both sides showing their determinations to take all the points, and the neutral fans can expect it won’t be another uneventful match like the goalless draw in the Rhein-derby last week between Köln and Borussia Mönchengladbach.
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