When FC Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund meet in one of Germany’s fiercest rivalries, the region stands still.
On Saturday, the two teams mark the 150th competitive Revierderby with plenty on the line for both clubs in the Bundesliga.
Home advantage for the Royal Blues:
Derbies at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen have been happy times of late for Schalke, who are unbeaten in Dortmund’s last two visits. Markus Weinzierl’s side clawed their way out of the bottom half two weeks ago with a win at 1. FSV Mainz 05, but there’s little clearance between them and the teams in trouble of relegation.
— PUMA Football (@pumafootball) March 29, 2017
League form will say otherwise, but when Schalke bring their most committed performance, they can compete with even the likes of Dortmund and FC Bayern Munchen. With a vociferous home support behind them, Weinzierl’s side will be given an extra edge, as they look to boost hopes of a late push for European qualification.
“Every rivalry is special. Schalke against Dortmund is just as big as the North London derby in England – if not even bigger,” said ex-Spurs midfielder Nabil Bentaleb.
— FC Schalke 04 (@s04_en) March 30, 2017
Schalke’s hyper-intensive game at the Veltins has proven tricky at the best of times for Dortmund in recent seasons.
Dortmund seem to have the stomach for the fight:
Often this season, Thomas Tuchel’s side have been portrayed as mentally fragile under pressure. Sometimes perception can be wrong. Dortmund have shown on more than enough occasions this campaign that there is a hidden tenacity around the squad. While Ousmane Dembele’s hot-headedness can spill over on the odd instance, the French kid demonstrates how Tuchel’s side have stepped up to the mark.
A. Isak (17)
C. Pulisic (18)
F. Passlack (18)
O. Dembélé (19)
E. Mor (19)
M. Dahoud (21)
J. Weigl (21)
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 30, 2017
So when reports this week emerged that certain Dortmund players had rejected the help of a meditation expert, who was drafted in at the start of the season, there was another question mark around the mentality of the players. Is there discord between coach and players? Or an ego issue in the dressing room? Perhaps Dortmund’s young squad is self-confident enough to go without the additional support. Sometimes perception isn’t always how it appears.
One point clear of fourth, and within touching distance of second-placed RB Leipzig, the season is panning out considerably better than expected for Tuchel’s men. There’s further action in the German Cup and Champions League to come, but for the weekend, the derby takes priority and gives Dortmund another chance to show they have the mettle for the battle.
Midfield balance is crucial for Dortmund:
Saturday’s derby will perhaps be won in several important areas of the field, but the constellation of qualities in Dortmund’s midfield will be the most important. Tuchel can call upon Julian Weigl, who will make his first appearance at the Veltins Arena in yellow-and-black.
The long-term absence of Sven Bender, and no obvious replacement, is a defensive concern for Dortmund. When the likes of Dembele and Pulisic are losing one-on-one situations and conceding the ball, Dortmund’s counter-pressure off the ball can be weak. Gonzalo Castro doesn’t quite add the same tenacity as Bender, while Sebastian Rode is also injured.
But there is an option in Portuguese international Raphael Guerreiro, who has shown his potential in the middle of the park before. The 23-year-old is exceptionally dynamic, with and without the ball, and will give the yellow-and-blacks some kind of counter balance against Schalke’s more aggressive midfield trio of Leon Goretzka, Nabil Bentaleb and Johannes Geis.
— PUMA Football (@pumafootball) March 29, 2017
Hunt for Goals: Burgstaller vs. Aubameyang:
Both teams will be looking to provide enough service to their two marksmen in attack. Schalke’s Guido Burgstaller joined in the January transfer window with 14 goals in the first half of the 2.Bundesliga for Nürnberg, but has surprisingly continued his form into Germany’s top division. The 27-year-old has four in nine for the Royal Blues and makes his derby debut this weekend.
“Guido has done a huge job, scoring important goals. Dortmund’s Aubameyang, of course, has a strong season with 23 goals, but we also have a good striker at the club,” said Schalke’s captain Benedikt Höwedes.
Though Burgstaller has limitations, if the Royal Blues feed him enough of the ball, he can make a difference.
Sporting a new hair style, the Bundesliga top scorer continues to reach new highs in front of goal. The Dortmund striker has 23 to his name this season, but his improving all-round game will be a source of delight for head coach Tuchel.
“Everybody knows what we have to do: win the derby!” said the Gabon striker before the international window.
Think you are a better manager than Carlo Ancelotti or Thomas Tuchel? Now is your chance to prove it! Sign up for the FOX Sports FC Bundesliga Manager and show your tactical nous to stand a chance of winning great prizes, including a trip to Germany to watch the Bundesliga live!