- Schalke victorious ahead of derby clash.
- Fans appreciate team's hard graft.
- Sporting director Heidel pleased with progress.
“Schalke are back!” was the roar from the crowd after the Royal Blues' 3-0 win over 1. FSV Mainz 05 on Sunday - just in time for the derby against Dortmund. The fans appreciate the way the team are playing, demonstrating local Ruhr values of honest, hard work.
Watch: The feeling between Bentaleb and the Schalke fans was mutual on Sunday:
Sporting director Christian Heidel had a little smile on his face following the club’s second successive home victory as he spoke about the team’s style of play. He said, “I get the impression the fans like this style.” The Gelsenkirchen club dominated the game against Mainz after battling back from a start to the season which saw them claim just two points from their opening seven games. It’s that hard-working spirit that Heidel and coach Markus Weinzierl expect. “We have to work, work, work,” asserted the sporting director. The locals from the Ruhr region call it Malochen - which means hard graft.
Heidel wants workhorses in his Royal Blues squad and the players delivered against Mainz. Schalke pressed from the front with Franco Di Santo leading the line alongside Max Meyer. The Argentine was rewarded for his tireless efforts with two assists - the first time he’s achieved that feat in his 79 Bundesliga appearances. But it was Nabil Bentaleb who stole the show with his brace. The 21-year-old is growing into his role at the heart of Schalke’s midfield, much to the pleasure of Heidel, who thinks that there is more to come from the Algerian and that he can drive the team forward. Individual class like Bentaleb's combined with a strong team work ethic is precisely what Schalke are looking for.
Schalke’s spirit will be put to the ultimate test when they face their fiercest rivals Dortmund on Saturday. BVB have twice as many points on the board as S04 and have not lost to the Royal Blues since September 2014. Despite being new at the club, Bentaleb knows the importance of this fixture for the Schalke fans: “The derby is massive for Schalke and for the city. It’s the sort of game you really look forward to as a footballer.”