Munich - The Bundesliga is gearing up for the first season's clash of the Ruhr district titans, when FC Schalke 04 play host to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday afternoon.
Aware of the significance
For fans of both clubs, these are the games that traditionally matter more than any other in their own right, regardless of the stakes in terms of their relative league standings.
The rivalry of these near-neighbours, whose grounds stand just 17 miles apart as the crow flies, seeks its like in the German game in terms of magnitude, undoubtedly, and arguably intensity as well. Any player born locally, who grew up steeped in its culture and has subsequently been lucky enough to join the professional ranks of his beloved team, can give a vivid description of the fixture's local significance. Dortmund hometown hero , for example, asked once what he would do if ever he had a son who ended up supporting Schalke, mooted the possibility of adoption.
But what does this mother of all German derbies mean to players from further afield - not least one from Japan? has got a few under his belt already since swapping Kashima Antlers for FC Schalke in the summer of 2010. After helping the Royal Blues to a hard-earned 3-2 victory at Eintracht Braunschweig on Matchday 9, the 25-year-old right back was mindful first and foremost of the practicalities of going up against first-rate opposition like Dortmund at the end of "a tough week, with one game coming on top of the other. All we can do is prepare as best we can and try to pick up some more points."
Joining the leading trio
It has been a tough week indeed, with defeat to Chelsea FC in the UEFA Champions League on the back of a real battle at cellar-dwellers Braunschweig, where Roman Neustädter only sealed the victory in added time after an injury-stricken Schalke had twice managed to haul themselves back into it. "Obviously it's difficult to win when you go behind away from home but I'm glad we managed to turn the game around," Uchida told bundesliga.com. "Hopefully the result will give us some added momentum for the next ones."
Asked, in that context, for his take on the current three-way battle at the top between FC Bayern München, Dortmund and Bayer 04 Leverkusen, the 66-time Japan international was unequivocal in his response: "We have to get involved in that as well. There are a lot of good teams in the Bundesliga but we need to keep moving up through the standings."
Choice of colours
They have the ideal opportunity to do just that this Saturday at home to Jürgen Klopp's dynamic Schwarz-Gelben, who are eight points clear of them going into the game. The significance of the red-hot local rivalry has not been lost on Uchida. "One of the first things I was told when I arrived in Germany was not to wear anything yellow, and even to steer clear of black shoes," he recalled. "That's how intense it is. You never want to lose against Dortmund - and we beat them twice last season. They're a fine team, but we'll be going out looking for another win this time as well."
Check out what else Uchida said about the upcoming clash against BVB courtesy of the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel: