This Saturday sees Borussia Dortmund travel to Schalke 04 in the 150th edition of one of Europe’s biggest rivalries. On occasion, the game is overlooked when comparing European clashes, yet within Germany, especially for fans of the two clubs, this is the biggest Bundesliga match of the season.
Consistently battling at the top of the Bundesliga and sitting a mere 30km apart has led to a fierce rivalry between two of Germany’s biggest sides stretching back to the 1920’s. The Revierderby has gained a level of prominence where it now outweighs any other local or German ties. Other derby meetings in the Ruhr region are classed as ‘Small Revier’ Derbies. Bayern’s recent dominance of the league has led to many outside of Germany disregard the magnitude of the tie, this week hosted at the Veltins-Arena, how wrong they are. Both clubs have massive fan bases both inside and outside their relatively small towns, with potential bragging rights stemming from playgrounds to the factory floors where these clubs are rooted.
Derby games can often be tense affairs, exemplified by the 0-0 bore-draw earlier in the season. However, in the case of these two heavyweights, matches are almost always dramatic and viewing is very much recommended. There have been various classic clashes. For instance, 2008 the Signal-Iduna Park witnessed a spectacular comeback from Borussia Dortmund, scoring three second-half goals in a tie that finished 3-3 and Schalke with nine men. Last season’s installations were no different, the first match saw a 3-2 home win for Dortmund which was followed by an equally enthralling 2-2 draw at the Veltins. The latter result all but ended Borussia Dortmund’s title hopes, much like Dortmund had done to Schalke 9 years prior, winning 2-0 and paving the way for Stuttgart to break The Royal Blues’ title aspirations.
Both teams have improved as the season has developed, illustrated by recent qualification for the latter stages of their retrospective continental competitions. Schalke have only lost two matches in their last thirteen, with the anomalies being difficult trips to Gladbach and table-toppers Bayern. That being said, draws have come all too frequently for Markus Weinzeirl’s side, and come Saturday a draw will be almost no help in their quest to claim a European spot.
Borussia Dortmund have been equally, if not more impressive, winning eight of their last eleven, including cup ties against Lotte and Benfica. In the league, Tuchel’s team have pulled themselves into the top three following big wins against Leverkusen and Freiburg. With RB Leipzig dropping points they have manufactured a battle for second, three points the difference. Although they have lots left to play for out-with the Bundesliga, three points against Schalke will almost guarantee Champions League football for next season.
Schalke’s ability to wrangle a draw from defeat makes this weekend’s game a very tough one to call. Dortmund’s recent form, with Pulisic and top-scorer Aubameyang firing, is cause for concern for Howedes and co. They have scored in all of their last 16 games. Whilst for Schalke, Burgstaller has been a revelation with Huntelaar’s on sabbatical and Embolo absent. Strikers on form and both defences with an air of uncertainty, unlike October goals, are a certainty. Sitting on the fence is easy, almost as easy as forecasting a game worthy of watching.