Jakub Blaszczykowski believes that Borussia Dortmund’s derby clashes with Schalke are the most important fixtures of the season.
The reigning Bundesliga champions head into the crunch match on Saturday on the back of a 3-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday, which secured their spot in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Juergen Klopp’s men lost 2-1 to Schalke earlier this season, and Blaszczykowski is refusing to let the 10-point gap between Dortmund in second place in the Bundesliga and their rivals in sixth give the team a false sense of security.
“The derby games are always a bit special. It’s an important game for us here, the most important of the season,” the attacking midfielder told Bundesliga.com.
“In the week leading up to the derby, you are absolutely focused. You can actually feel it.
“When you’re up against a top team, it doesn’t matter where you are in relative to the standings. Every game starts as a level playing field.
“When you lose a derby, you lose a measure of self-confidence as well. When we travel to Gelsenkirchen, nothing is on our mind but the game.”
Dortmund have enjoyed success at the Veltins Arena in recent years, and Blaszczykowski reflected nostalgically on the aftermath of the derby clash in 2010 in which two goals from Shinji Kagawa saw them win 3-1.
“After the match, we game back to Dortmund, and so many fans turned up then at our old training ground, it was really fantastic. It’s the kind of thing you’re never going to forget,” the Poland international added.
“It’s a brilliant feeling to win at their stadium. The game before last, we won that one 2-1. That was a great match, and hopefully we can put in a repeat performance there this time.
“What we’ve achieved so far has been incredible. And I hope we can add a few extras to that and get the chance to celebrate with the fans again. Moments like that stay with you through to the end.”