Preview: the 146th Revierderby is Upon Us

Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04 headline match day 23 with the 146th incarnation of Germany’s famed Revierderby.  Bundesliga.com rightfully bills this clash as critical, not just because it’s Germany biggest derby, but also because of the table position implications involved. It’s showtime!

Hinspiel

After the last Revierderby, S04 won 2-1 and passed up BVB in the table and BVB’s inglorious slide to the bottom really began. The loss sent BVB into the bottom half of the table. The match itself was decent. Schalke opened a 2-0 lead after 23 minutes, thanks to goals from Joel Matip (header) and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (right corner). Both were set piece. Ugh. At the time, BVB’s shoddy box marking grabbed our attention. Little could we imagine the shocking lapses and losses to come. On the other hand, Schalke 04 began their quiet climb into the European places with a sluggish season opening. In a clichéd sense, the 145th derby match was a crossroads for both clubs.

I imagine that this 146th derby will also prove to be a crossroads, especially once table positions clear up in the season’s final weeks.

Current Form

For BVB, the narrative contours are familiar. Dormtund have won three in a row. However, the last five matches are D-L-W-W-W. And the last ten matches: L-W-L-D-L-D-L-W-W-W. That’s four losses in the last 10. However, winning three in a row (opponent strength be damned!) raises one’s spirits.

For S04, di Matteo’s boys cling to 4th place in the table, only eclipsing Augsburg on GD. The Royal-Blues’s last five matches look like this: W-D-W-L-D. And the last ten matches: W-W-L-W-D-W-D-W-L-D. That’s five wins, three draws, and two losses. Not bad, but not brilliant.

Projected Line-ups

On Tuesday, Dortmund lost Lucasz Piszczek (out for six weeks) – again – which means that Jürgen Klopp must revisit the “solving for X” problem with his backline – again. Additionally, Klopp might give Kehl (or even Bender?) a go in defensive midfield. However, the attacking four will likely stay the same, even after mid-week UCL play, given the derby’s importance. For BVB, I’ve got:

Projected Lineup (4-1-4-1, “sorta a 4-2-3-1”):

Weidenfeller / Socrates, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer / Sahin / Kampl, Kagawa, Gündogan, Reus / Aubameyang.

As for Schalke, well, I’ll take a guess. But first, let’s just acknowledge how absolutely battered by injuries di Matteo’s side is. Wow: Julian Draxler, Jefferson Farfan, Chinedu Obasi, Leon Goretzka, Jan Kirchoff, Joel Matip, and Ralf Fährmann. I mean, it’s a miracle that Schalke still goals at all during these lean days. No wonder Di Matteo pulled out the bus. Of course, the big news for Schalke is that Hunter-Huntelaar ist züruck, Baby! For S04, I’ve got:

Projected Lineup (3-1-4-2 or whatever … 3-5-2?):

Wellenreuther / Höwedes, Matip, Nastasic / Uchida, Neustädter, Fuchs / Höger, Meyer / Choupo-Moting, Huntelaar.

Attack and Defense

Marco Reus is really looking like Marco-Freaking-Reus, finally, after his two ankle injuries. His movement is sharp, swift, and sneaky. He’s been scoring goals, too – three matches in a row – but more importantly, his passing play has been menacing around the box. And it looks like he and Kagawa are really figuring each other out, as their interplay has been remarkable. However, perhaps even more remarkable has been Ilkay Gündogan’s form in the last 4-5 matches. “Illy” has been playing higher up the pitch and taking more shots on goal than in the past. And he’s good at it. His ball distributing is just as expansive as ever, too. I’m slightly optimistic about what this attack can do against defensive-minded Schalke.

However, I’m a bit worried about transitional defensive. My guess is that Subotic and Hummels will be playing deep up the pitch, given di Matteo’s defensive tactics and the surging home crowd, which means the centerbacks’ recovery skills have to be perfect against Schalke, especially with the Choupo-Moting and Huntelaar tandem streaking on the break.

I’m guessing di Matteo will stick to what his sides do: play crowded-box defense. And why not? His attacking options are somewhat limited. especially in setting up attackers through midfield play. Schalke lack a creative midfield to feed the likes of Meyer and Höger. Besides, given Dortmund’s propensity to over-extended in attack (by getting “numbers forward”), there will probably be counter-attacks available for S04. I mean, I just can’t imagine Klopp reverting to the strangely regressive tactics he trotted out on MD 18 in the 0-0 draw at Leverkusen

Besides, BVB are playing at home. They will hunger to fly down the pitch. There will be blood – either way.

Prediction

Oh, gawd. Can I just flip a coin ten times? Here we go …. Ah shucks, 5 heads and 5 tails. Dammit. I dunno. I think Dortmund breaks di Matteo’s defensive bus – finally – with a goal. Reus will juke someone, someone will slip, someone (Kagawa?) will slip something past Wellenreuther. BVB 1 – 0 Schalke 04.

I can’t see Schalke winning this one. But I can barely see BVB winning it. I’ll get back to flipping that coin …

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Travis serves as an editor and regular columnist here. Born and groomed in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Travis is a college English instructor in Pittsburgh. Coffee, books, and sports are his passions. His writing has also appeared in Howler magazine, 11Freunde, America Magazine, The Short Pass, Bloomberg Sports, the Good Man Project, his former blog, Sportisourstory.tumblr.com, and elsewhere. He tweets at @tptimmons. Heja BVB!

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