Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 don’t usually need much of an excuse to get fired up for Germany’s biggest derby. However, with the season winding down and both teams in the hunt for crucial points, this weekend’s Revierderby takes on a tremendous amount of significance for both teams.
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The season’s earlier meeting, a 3-2 victory for Dortmund, saw Dortmund keep pace with leaders Bayern Munich while Schalke’s loss kept them from jumping back into the top-four. Once again the two rivals find themselves in similar situations they were in back in November. Dortmund hopes to keep up with Bayern, while Schalke, who sit one point back of 4th, hope to get back into Champions League position.
While Dortmund sits 23 points above their local rivals, Schalke would no doubt enjoy putting a serious dent in BVB’s title chances, even if it means another Bayern title.
Dortmund, meanwhile, will be recovering from an emotional meeting with former boss Jürgen Klopp, and will need to focus to remain within striking distance of Munich. If ever there was an advantage for Schalke, this would be in. Having not played during the week, the Royal Blues will no doubt be fresher than their opponents. Dortmund high-tempo meeting with Liverpool could leave them vulnerable to tired legs if the game is still close late. Thomas Tuchel subbing off Pierre-Emerik Aubameyang against Liverpool could be a sign that he was aware of the derby that looms on Sunday.
Aubameyang, who scored in the first Revierderby this season, will be a handful for Schalke’s backline. The extra rest he was given on Thursday could benefit Dortmund, but then again the fact that Schalke hasn’t played since last Saturday will mean the hosts should be far more rested. Even so, Aubameyang, along with Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are one of Europe’s most fearsome attack trios.
Schalke will be hoping to counter Dortmund’s potent attack with the likes of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and German wunderkind Leroy Sané. The two Schalke attacks have combined for 13 goals this season, and while that isn’t even enough to equal the goalscoring total of Aubameyang, they have the potential to cause Dortmund’s defense trouble on the break. Huntelaar scored a consolation goal the last time these two sides met.
Dortmund is in relatively good health though they are still without the services of defender Neven Subotić, who won’t return this season. Schalke, likewise, is without the services of another veteran center back. Benedikt Höwedes, who is still out with a thigh injury, won’t be available to help his side against Dortmund’s potent offense.
This derby is likely to be decided on how effective Schalke are at keeping Aubameyang and Co. at bay. If defender Joël Matip is up to the task, or Dortmund are as wasteful as they were against Liverpool, then Schalke cold punish them. If Schalke is able to get the ball up to Sane and let him run at Dortmund’s defense the Schalke could be back in the top-four where they so badly want to be.
Bragging rights, as always, will be on the line Sunday. But with so much on the line for both clubs these three points make Sunday’s match more important than ever. It’s getting close to make or break time, and because of that, you couldn’t have set up this derby any better.