Gelsenkirchen - FC Schalke 04 go in search of only their second win of 2013 when they welcome Fortuna Düsseldorf to the Veltins Arena on Saturday evening (kick-off 18:30 CET).
The Royal Blues have had precious little to cheer of late, but after taking a 1-1 draw away from Galatasaray AS in the UEFA Champions League and with the likes of , Jermaine Jones and Jefferson Farfan in their corner, it looks like Jens Keller's men might just be turning a corner.
"I'd have taken the result from the start," said defender Benedikt Höwedes of Wednesday night’s first leg clash in Istanbul, "but if you look at the game we could probably have come away with more." The Schalke skipper certainly has a point, and it’s not very often we've been able to say that about the Gelsenkirchen club in recent months.
Since beating Ruhr rivals and Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 8, Schalke have won just three times in the league. Four points from as many draws have kept them ticking over and, despite suffering seven defeats in their last 14 Bundesliga outings, the ninth-placed Royal Blues are still only seven points behind fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt.
"Commitment and aggression"
"The lads proved they were the better team," said Keller after watching his young side brave the infamous cauldron of noise served up by the residents of Galatasaray’s Ali Sami Yen Spor Kompleksi. "If we could take anything with us into the next game, it’d be the lads' commitment and aggression" - qualities very much on show in Matchday 6's 2-2 thriller between Saturday evening's Bundesliga foes.
It's a game Fortuna coach Norbert Meier remembers fondly and one he'll be looking back on for inspiration as die Flingaraner, with prized Socceroo Robbie Kruse in tow, travel to the Veltins Arena for the first time in the Bundesliga's 50-year history, albeit as massive underdogs.
"A learning curve"
"I was asked about this 'favourites tag’' against Furth," said Meier. "It's really not necessary this time. The whole year has been a learning curve for us, so of course we’re really excited about [the Schalke game]. We have to keep reminding ourselves how lucky we are just being one of Germany’s top 18 clubs."
Not that there's any questioning their place at German football's high table. Six more points since the Bundesliga's mid-January resumption have seen Fortuna move eleven points clear of the bottom three and only seven points behind Hamburger SV in sixth, but Meier is refusing to get carried away: "Even talking about [the UEFA Europa League places] is presumptuous."
FC Schalke 04: Hildebrand - Höger, Höwedes, Matip, Fuchs - J. Jones, Neustädter - Farfan, Draxler, Michel Bastos - Huntelaar
Fortuna Düsseldorf: Giefer - Balogun, Latka, Malezas, J. van den Bergh - Tesche, Bodzek - Kruse, Ilsö, Bellinghausen - Reisinger