Schalke 04 play host to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday afternoon in the latest instalment of German football's ultimate local derby. Just 20 miles by road separates these two cities in the heart of the traditionally heavy-industry Ruhr district and their respective clubs long ago developed a rivalry which is stoked anew at regular intervals in an industrial-sized furnace. The Royal Blues have struggled to keep pace with their all-conquering neighbours over the past couple of years, but they can go into this encounter buoyed by the recent upturn in their own form - and the prospect of wrapping up a rare season double, on the back of a 2-1 success at Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park earlier in the campaign.
With ten games still to go, there clearly remains plenty of scope for movement in either direction for the bulk of teams in the division. That said, Dortmund and Leverkusen have each now managed to put a tidy cushion between themselves and the other contenders for a top-three finish and the accompanying direct spot in the Champions League group stages. Below them, with only five points separating fourth place from tenth, the carve-up for a ticket into Europe next season promises to be a particularly intense affair. Promoted Eintracht Frankfurt remain in pole position to earn a shot at the Champions League qualifying rounds, but the likes of Schalke, Hamburg and Mönchengladbach are queuing up behind them now - to say nothing of fellow surprise packages Freiburg and Mainz. Further down the pecking order, Stuttgart, Bremen and even Wolfsburg, currently fourth from bottom, are all still in with a shout of climbing into contention for a Europa League berth on the back of a few good results.
It has been far from smooth running meanwhile for Hamburger SV this season, but the fortunes of the Bundesliga's one ever-present member do appear, on balance, to be on the up now. True to their inconsistent form, the Red Shorts stumbled to a home draw against cellar-dwellers Fürth at the weekend, having been tanned 5-1 at Hannover the week before. Prior to that though, successive victories at Dortmund and against Mönchengladbach propelled them back into the frame for Europe and one of the men they are relying on to get them there is Heung Min Son. The young South Korean prospect has formed an increasingly lethal partnership up front with new signing Artjoms Rudnevs, chipping in with nine goals of his own to date. Remarkably, almost half that total was netted in home-and-away victories over champs Dortmund - testimony to Son's feel for the big occasion.