Borussia Dortmund welcome Schalke to Signal Iduna Park on Sunday for the 147th Ruhr derby but will need to secure bragging rights without the influential Marco Reus.
The Germany international faces a two-week spell on the sidelines after picking up a hamstring problem during their midweek win over Qabala in the Europa League and his absence has somewhat dampened Dortmund’s preparations.
Thomas Tuchel’s men are in fine form ahead of their meeting with local rivals Schalke, having won all six matches since defeat to Bayern Munich, scoring 24 goals in that time and ensuring progression to the Europa League’s last 32.
Like opposite number Andre Breitenreiter, Sunday will be Tuchel’s first experience of the Ruhr derby, with the former Mainz boss likening the fixtures against Schalke to a fourth competition.
“It’s quite simply the derby in Germany,” he told Sky Deutschland.
“That’s why there is no clear-cut favourite because it has its own rules.
“We are aware that this is a fourth competition. We’ve got the Europa League, the DFB-Pokal and the Bundesliga – and we’ve got two games against Schalke. By all means, we want to win that competition too and we are ready for it.”
Schalke have the upper hand in the 146 derbies to date – boasting 58 wins to Dortmund’s 50 – but Breitenreiter’s men have accumulated just four points from their last four Bundesliga fixtures.
Ahead of clashes with Bayern and Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke go into this weekend’s meeting without injured captain Benedikt Howedes as well as suspended midfielder Johannes Geis.
Breitenreiter’s side are without a win in five matches and the Schalke coach told the Bundesliga’s official website: “The tension is mounting already, I’m really looking forward to my first Revierderby.
“The closer we get to the game, the more we are talking up the emotions. We’ll be very motivated for this one.
“We’ll be trying to win the game, and if that’s not possible we’re at least going to trash the pitch. I think that’s what you wanted to hear!
“[Dortmund are] right back in the groove after a fairly unsuccessful campaign, they’re a quality squad packed with top internationals.
“We may not have their strength in depth but over the 90 minutes we obviously have a chance. We never give up and we play attractive, attacking football. We’re in a tricky phase at the moment but we need to keep this positive vibe going by personal example.
“This is a match that unleashes the emotions like no other, but we’ll try prepare in the usual manner with the aim of implementing our game plan.”