Any football fan worth their salt are aware of the importance of derbies. They are the first game anybody looks for when the fixtures are announced at the beginning of the season and week leading up to one can be torturous. A win and you can go about your week in the knowledge that no matter else happens this season, then at least you have beaten them (whoever they might be). A loss and your whole weekend is ruined by the fact your team was worse than theirs on the day. For BVB today, THEY are Schalke and this is the Ruhr derby.
Another loss in the Champions League on Tuesday confirmed our exit from this seasons competition. It has been a disastrous campaign for Peter Bosz and the manager will want to forget about it quickly. The manner of the 2-1 loss to Spurs at Signal Iduna Park – losing from a winning position – was not the ideal preparation for one of Dortmund’s biggest games of the season. In his pre-match press conference however the manager was in a positive mood, having seemingly forgotten about sides departure from Europe’s premier competition.
He said, “This is my first Ruhr derby. Even when I was still a player and a coach in the Netherlands, people would talk about this Ruhr derby. So it must be something special.” The manager also spoke about retrieving his teams early season good form. “I’ve spoken with and coached the players – but ultimately the most important thing is that you win games. That allows the players to build up the confidence they need. We showed at the start of the season that if we’re well organised, we’re capable of playing good football and fighting.” Bosz’s training methods have been criticised in Germany for being too rugged for this stage of the season. However the Dutchman refuses to accept that this is the reason for Dortmund’s current slump. “I think that’s too simplistic. At the start of the season we weren’t physically as good as we are now, but we kept going for 90 minutes and often scored at the end of matches. Even then we showed that our condition was good.”
There are three new injury worries for the manager ahead of this game. Sokratis Papastathopoulos picked up a rib injury in the game against VfB Stuttgart last week which forced him off at half time. He is likely to miss the derby due to that injury. Christian Pulisic has a slight muscle complaint which Bosz isn’t likely to risk here. Roman Burki picked up a knock following a collision in Tuesday’s game and is doubtful to face Schalke today, so Roman Weidenfeller could deputise.
Down the road in Gelsenkirchen, preparations for the game have also been intense. You wouldn’t have known looking at manager Domenico Tedesco though, who was in high spirits in his pre-match press conference on Friday and commented on his excitement for the game. “Ever since I’ve been Schalke coach, the fans have always told me how important winning the derby is to them. Every day, I can feel a relay special game coming. It’s a wonderful feeling for all of us to feel the support from all the fans lifting us.” Tedesco is not straying from his usual preparations ahead of the derby. “We’re approaching this game just as focused as we are for any other fixture,” he says. “If I said we were approaching this game any differently, that would be implying that we’re not 100% focused.”
Schalke will be without two of their first choice players for this one. Pablo Insua misses out with a pericardial inflammation (sounds serious I suppose) and Nabil Bentaleb has a pelvic injury. Schalke will be pleased however by the return of Leon Goretzka, who returned to training this week. Although he isn’t certain to start at this point, his return does put him in contention.
With so much at stake and with results being so negative lately, Dortmund fans would be forgiven for not looking forward to this game. Guido Burgstaller is scoring for fun for the away side and second choice goalkeeper isn’t the ideal man to be playing in goal against the Schalke hitman. However this game could also present the perfect opportunity for Borussia Dortmund to set the record straight. A win will be positive on so many levels. Aside from the fact a win the derby is brilliant for the morale of everyone at the club – fans, staff and players – and that it would end a run of dismal results, it will also propel Dortmund back into the title picture. A win today is not only a desire, it is a must.