Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 3/4
There’s a real treat for the fans of the German Bundesliga on Saturday afternoon. At the Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Schalke 04 will play host to Borussia Dortmund in the Revierderby, one of the fiercest rivalries in the game worldwide. It will be the 24th game of the campaign for each team, and the 100th time they face each other in the German top flight.
Schalke returned to the Bundesliga last summer after a season in the second tier, and it looks like they’ll have to work hard between now and the end of May if they want to avoid another drop. As things stand at the moment, they are a part of the “bottom four”, the teams occupying places 15 to 18, each with a tally of 19 points. Sorted by goal-difference, Schalke are 17th, with VfB Stuttgart in 15th, Hoffenheim in 16th, and VfL Bochum at the very bottom. Hertha Berlin in 14th are in this fight as well, having just one point more than this pack, though Augsburg in 13th and Koln in 12th, with 27 points each, probably feel more comfortable for the time being.
Schalke have actually improved their form significantly in recent matches, or their case would’ve been truly desperate. They haven’t lost a single game since January, with their last-six run consisting of no less than four consecutive goalless draws – at home against Koln, away to Borussia Monchengladbach, at home against Wolfsburg, and away to Union Berlin. After that, they beat Stuttgart 2-1 at home, and Bochum away last week by 0-2.
An own-goal by Bochum’s Manuel Reimann broke the deadlock in the final minute of the first half, and Marius Bulter set the final score to seal the points for Thomas Reis’s team in the 79th.
Die Knappen have a rather long list of injured players, which makes their recent fine results more impressive while making their task in this derby obviously harder. Coach Reis cannot call upon goalkeeper Justin Heekeren, defender Sepp van den Berg, midfielders Danny Latza and Dominick Drexler, as well as winger Soichiro Kozuki. Midfiedler Eder Balanta is a doubt.
Ralf Fahrmann should be in goal. Maya Yoshida and January signing Moritz Jenz will pair up in the heart of defence, with Cedric Brunner on the right and Henning Matriciani on the left. Alex Kral and Thomas Krauss should start in the middle of the park, with the trio of Rodrigo Zalazar, Bulter and Tobias Mohr supporting striker Michael Frey upfront.
Despite a superb run of recent form, it’s been a rather difficult week for BVB. Their players, staff and supporters probably still haven’t gotten over the 2-0 defeat away to Chelsea on Tuesday, in a game that saw the Premier League side get awarded a controversial penalty which former Bayer Leverkusen forward Kai Havertz slammed into the post and got a second chance, which he took, due to an encroachment of the box in the process. It was a loss difficult to take in such manner, especially as it meant Champions League elimination for Edin Terzic’s team, and speaking to the press afterwards, midfielder Jude Bellingham labelled the referee’s decisions regarding the incident “a joke”.
As it happened, referee Danny Makkelie and his assistants in the VAR room made the calls in accordance with the laws of the game, so it certainly isn’t their fault, though the questions around the rules themselves that have arisen in the football world since are perfectly valid.
Leaving such discussions and the Champions League aside now, Dortmund have done extremely well this season. At the moment, they’re second to perpetual champions Bayern Munich merely on goal-difference with both sides on 49 points, and the race for the title between them should be truly exciting this time. Union Berlin (44 points), RB Leipzig and SC Freiburg (42 each) appear to stand a chance mathematically, but it’s hard to imagine any one of those three keeping the pace up for the rest of the season.
Interestingly enough, Dortmund have won their last eight Bundesliga games. The last time that happened, they won the title, and if they win the Revierderby, they’ll set a new club record. But their last-six run in all competitions includes the Chelsea defeat of course, slightly marring the overall impressive form. Before it happened, they won 0-2 away to Werder Bremen, beat Chelsea 1-0 at home in the first leg, beat Hertha 4-1 at home, beat Hoffenheim away by 0-1, and triumphed 2-1 over Leipzig at home.
Attacking pair of Karim Adeyemi and Youssoufa Moukoko, sorely missed at Stamford Bridge, remain out of action. Attacking midfielder Julian Brandt is out as well.
Goalkeeper Gregor Kobel could be back from injury, but it isn’t likely at this point. Captain Marco Reus is a doubt as well, but he’ll surely start if he recovers from illness in time.
Right-back Julian Ryerson is back, having served his suspension.
Alex Meyer will almost definitely remain in goal for this match. Marius Wolf will play on the left side of defence, with Niklas Sule and Nico Schlotterbeck in the middle and Ryerson on the left. Salih Ozcan will anchor the midfield, with Emre Can and Bellingham in box-to-box roles. Giovani Reyna and Reus will flank Sebastien Haller in attack.
Hungry to bounce back from the London heartbreak, Dortmund will likely enter this match with a relentless desire to win. That, plus the obvious difference in quality in their favuor, should be enough to see them continue the quest for the Bundesliga title with fresh three points.
Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 3/4
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