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.