Berlin (AFP) – Schalke 04 plot to become the first Bundesliga side to beat Borussia Dortmund this season and extend the German league leaders’ recent misery in Gelsenkirchen in Saturday’s Ruhr derby.
This is the first time in six years Dortmund go into the derby top of the table, but they last won at the Veltins Arena half a decade ago.
A gulf of 19 points and 12 places in the table separates the clubs, who are only 33kms (20miles) apart, but Schalke are itching to get one over their high-flying neighbours and bitter rivals.
“Since Monday, the pulse of the derby beats in the region. Everyone is talking about it,” Manuel Neukirchner, director of the German Football museum in Dortmund, told AFP.
“Here, you can’t be neutral.
“It reminds me a bit of the Beatles and Rolling Stones in the 1960s – you have to support one or the other.”
Dortmund have not won any of the last five derbies and Schalke ran out 2-0 winners in Gelsenkirchen last April.
The Royal Blues will be holding an open training session for home fans on Friday to fire the city up for one of European football’s most passionate derbies.
“In derby games, there is no outsider and no favourites,” said Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco.
“We will do everything to come out of the derby with a positive result.”
Tedesco sees his team’s pressing as their biggest weapon, plus the improving form of midfielders Sebastian Rudy and Nabil Bentaleb, whose penalty rescued a point in last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Hoffenheim.
However, the Royal Blues have huge injury problems up front with forwards Mark Uth, Franco di Santo and Breel Embolo sidelined, while Guido Burgstaller and Steven Skrzybski are struggling to be fit in time.
– Stunning draw haunts Dortmund –
In contrast, Dortmund’s attack is on fire.
Goal-machine Paco Alcacer, the league’s joint top-scorer with ten goals, has scored nine times off the bench and hit the net in each of his last three games.
England winger Jadon Sancho may be unavailable due to a family bereavement but captain Marco Reus has scored four goals and set up another in his last four games, including a brace in the 3-2 win at home to Bayern Munich.
“I think he’s the bolt which holds Dortmund together — when he plays well, so does the team — he’s an important player,” said Tedesco.