October 24, 2017

Revierderby Preview: Schalke 04 – Borussia Dortmund

Despite returning down to earth with a heart-breaking Champions League Second Round defeat against Turkish side Galatasaray just three days after their home win against Borussia Dortmund, Schalke’s success in both of the Ruhr derbies last season gave enough reason for the Royal Blues fans to be proud at the end of last season. Last season’s Revierderby glory further led to high expectations for Schalke to compete at the same level alongside their bitter rivals this season, but a rather slow start opened up a big gap in the standings between them going into this Saturday’s first Revierderby of the season.

Jürgen Klopp’s side has only lost a single league match up to date whereas Schalke had to wait until Matchday 4 to pick up their first league win of the season. To the huge relief of the home supporters, though, Schalke have revived in time from their ‘mini-crisis’ for the biggest clash of the season and last weekend’s hard-fought victory at Eintracht Braunschweig opened up a three-match unbeaten streak for the first time this season. The home defeat at the hands of Chelsea in the Champions League end their perfect start in Europe but their chance of progressing from their group is still well on course thanks to their sound win at Basel on Matchday 2.

Meanwhile, Dortmund are in perfect form for the derby clash following their late showdown at Emirates Stadium in midweek, which bolstered their dream of reaching the last sixteen in the Champions League. The last away match didn’t bring good memories for them, though, as a dramatic finish despite a dominant display meant they left Mönchengladbach empty-handed. Schalke may not hold the perfect home record like die Fohlen do but they’re hoping to leap into the top four with a moral-boosting victory over none other than their fiercest rivals.

Prince in blue

Following his surprising transfer to Schalke in the summer transfer market from Serie A side AC Milan, Kevin-Prince Boateng has played a pivotal role in the spirited form of the Royal Blues. The Ghanaian international has scored six goals in ten competitive matches for his new employers and is hoping to add to that impressive tally when Dortmund visits the Veltins-Arena this weekend. Boateng had a short loan stint at Dortmund back in 2009, including a cameo appearance against his current club, and flirted with last season’s Champions League finalists with a statement of “BVB are my favorite club” earlier in the summer, only to sign for their fierce rivals later on.

Joining the versatile midfielder in the list of current Schalke players who played for Dortmund beforehand, Felipe Santana is vying for a place at the heart of Jens Keller side’s defensive line following his departure from the Signal Iduna Park in search of regular football. The tall Brazilian center-half hasn’t just been a part of the Revierderby in the past with Dortmund, but also knows what scoring in it feels like, as he was responsible for the opening goal in the then-title-winners 2-0 home victory over Schalke a couple of seasons ago.

Dortmund’s new signings from the off-season, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have settled quickly at the club  and are hoping for a victory in their Revierderby debut. For the hosts, Ádám Szalai is still expected to lead the line upfront in the absence of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, while fellow summer signing Christian Clemens might get a chance to shine with Jefferson Farfán still injured. Youngsters Leon Goretzka and Max Meyer also hoping that their goalscoring performances in last week’s match against Eintracht Braunschweig can help them to earn some playing time in the derby clash.

Absentees

Marco Höger and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored against Dortmund last season but won’t be able to replicate that this weekend due to injury. Peruvian winger Jefferson Farfán is the other player to miss the derby action from the Royal Blues camp with a muscle tear. The guests welcomed back regular left-back Marcel Schmelzer in midweek and Mats Hummels will also return to the side after missing last week’s narrow league victory against Hannover due to the straight red card he picked up the week prior at Gladbach. Long time absentees İlkay Gündoğan and Łukasz Piszczek, as well as skipper Sebastian Kehl, will also miss the trip to Gelsenkirchen.

Three is the magic number

At first sight, you might relate the number three with the goals Schalke conceded in the midweek’s Champions League match against Chelsea but, come this weekend, it’s all about extending their winning streak in the Revierderby to three for the Royal Blues. Despite their local rivals reaching the final of the Champions League last season, the moral victory between them was won by Schalke courtesy of their league double over the back-to-back Bundesliga champions at the time. The last time Schalke won three consecutive matches against Dortmund was exactly 38 years ago, when they knocked Dortmund (then in the second division) out in the Second Round of the DFB-Pokal with a 2-1 victory at the Parkstadion in 75-76, on the back (relatively speaking) of a league double that went back to the 71-72 season (1-0 at the Parkstadion and 3-0 at the Rote Erde), which was the last time they’d played each other in a competitive match.

A win on Saturday can lift Schalke to a Champions League berth for the first time this season, as long as fourth-placed Hertha Berlin’s trip to league leaders Bayern München doesn’t end in a victory for Die Alte Dame. Another interesting fact is that Schalke and Dortmund are currently on a tie with 28 wins each in the 77 Bundesliga meetings between the two sides.

One step at a time

With their head coach Jürgen Klopp forced to be in the stands serving the second of his two-match ban in the Champions League, Borussia Dortmund seized most of their chances with a last-gasp win at Arsenal to level on points with the Premier League side and Napoli in the tight group. Robert Lewandowski, despite not attracting the plaudits for his four goals in a match this time around (that feat goes to Zlatan Ibrahimović, of course), showed his striker’s instinct with the match winner against Arsenal and hopes for a return to scoring ways in the league after going without a goal for two matches in which Dortmund only scored once and from a penalty at that.

For Dortmund, there will be no better way to prove that their recent bad results at Napoli and Mönchengladbach were one (or two) off than winning back-to-back against an in-form Arsenal side and fierce rivals Schalke. Klopp will have all the space he needs to celebrate this time around with revenge on their local rivals. Apart from a derby glory, it’s all to play for in heir title quest as just a point separates them from defending champions, Bayern München.

All in all, both sides will be targeting three points in what is arguably the king of derbies in Germany football when they go head-to-head this Saturday in the much-anticipated Bundesliga fixture of Matchday 10.

Probable Lineup

Schalke: Hildebrand; Santana, Höwedes, Uchida, Aogo; Neustädter, Jones, Clemens, Boateng, Draxler; Szalai

Dortmund: Weidenfeller; Hummels, Subotic, Schmelzer, Großkreutz; Bender, Sahin, Reus, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang; Lewandowski

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Eskender born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Despite the geographical difference, he is interested in every detail of German football. He breathes football to the point that he gets pleasure from nutmegging his innocent kid. You can also follow him on Twitter @eskeBMG

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