Abdou Diallo has warned of the threat local rivals Schalke post to Borussia Dortmund's title aspirations in the Revierderby on Saturday.
Schalke are winless in three and still have the prospect of relegation hanging over them, but France U21 captain Diallo doesn't believe that makes Dortmund's task of getting the win that would take them top of the Bundesliga ahead of leaders Bayern Munich's trip to Nuremberg any easier.
"You always have to be wary of a wounded animal," Diallo told German sports daily, Kicker after Dortmund closed the gap on Bayern to one point thanks to a rampant 4-0 win at Freiburg. "Schalke can rescue their season in this game. They'll give everything they have to be at 200 per cent. We have to be ready to counter everything they throw at us. The most important thing for us, like in all derby matches, is to get the win."
The nature of the Matchday 30 triumph away to Freiburg swings the pendulum firmly in Dortmund's favour in any case. After losing 5-0 to Bayern and scraping past Mainz, BVB coasted to victory in the Black Forest, scoring four times from only five efforts on target, through Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus, Mario Götze and Paco Alcacer.
For Diallo, it was a step in the right direction with Lucien Favre's charges one point and 14 goals worse off than defending champions Bayern heading into the final four matches of the season.
"It was fun, but we're taking it one game at a time," explained the 22-year-old. "There are positives from the Freiburg game - we love playing attractive football and scoring goals - but we still want to improve and that's what we'll be working on in the coming weeks."
After Schalke (h), Dortmund face Werder Bremen (a), Fortuna Düsseldorf (h) and Borussia Mönchengladbach (a). As well as a midweek DFB Cup semi-final in Bremen and Nuremberg in the Bundesliga, Bayern have Hannover (h), RB Leipzig (a) and Eintracht Frankfurt (h) still to come.
"We'll try to take maximum points from our remaining fixtures," vowed Diallo. "I'm optimistic we can win the title."