Going into their 80th Bundesliga match-up, and 141st competitive head-to-head overall down the years, the defending champions trail their near-neighbours from Gelsenkirchen by two points, and are already nine down on league leaders Bayern Munich. In terms of the table, the significance of the game for each of these Ruhr district heavyweights is obvious. But for the 80,000 fans of both colours who will cram into the Signal Iduna Park to cheer on their favourites, the stakes in this one are never less than absolute.
Klopp - Anyone can do the easy stuff
"A special game, played in a special atmosphere between two teams of special quality," is Jürgen Klopp's pithy synopsis of the occasion, and as far as the Dortmund coach is concerned, "We have the advantage of playing at home, but that's our only advantage. It will have to be enough." To BVB's disadvantage, they will be without two key players in the middle of the park. joins Jakub Blaszczykowski (torn ankle ligament) on the sidelines with a thigh muscle injury which flared up when he came off the bench for Germany in Tuesday's mind-boggling 4-4 draw with Sweden in Berlin.
A third member of the Borussia engine room, Ilkay Gündogan, has been a couple of days back in training following a two-week lay-off and a late call will most likely be made both on his fitness and that of left back Marcel Schmelzer, who is struggling with a foot problem. Whoever makes the final cut, Klopp has every confidence in their ability to rise to the occasion, noting, "Anyone can do the easy stuff. We'll need to produce a bit of magic, and we'll have a good team out on the pitch giving it their absolute all."
For visitors Schalke, this will be their 1,500th outing in the Bundesliga and naturally enough the Royal Blues intend to make it an anniversary to remember for the right reasons. To achieve that end, "We want to play with passion and display our own quality out on the pitch," head coach Huub Stevens says. The 58-year-old Dutch tactician, who started his second stint in Gelsenkirchen early last season, is a Revierderby veteran – this will be his 15th – but the man Schalke fans voted their 'Coach of the Century' is not one for meandering down memory lane and never tires of stressing that, "the only game that counts is the next one."
Even Stevens acknowledges, though, that this one counts for a little more than most - "A very special duel for players and fans alike," a sentiment echoed by skipper , who has long been acquainted with it having worked his way up through the youth ranks at Schalke. "I always look forward to this one tremendously," says the Germany international, who will be without still-sidelined central defensive partner Kyriakos Papadopoulos at the Signal Iduna Park. "It's explosive, the fans of both teams whip up an incredible atmosphere. And taking three points off of Dortmund's that bit extra special, of course."
Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer (Löwe/Großkreutz) - Gündogan (Bender), Kehl - Perisic, Reus, Großkreutz - Lewandowski
Schalke: Hildebrand (Unnerstall) - Uchida, Höwedes, Matip, Fuchs - Neustädter, Jones - Farfan, Holtby, Afellay - Huntelaar