Dortmund - FC Bayern München's impending title triumph will be the last thing on the minds of Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04 fans when the two fierce rivals meet in Tuesday evening's Revierderby (kick-off 19.00 GMT/20.00 CET).
S04 youngsters 'outstanding'
The Schwarz-Gelben and the Royal Blues are separated by just a solitary point going into the clash at Signal Iduna Park, and with both sides keen to seal their place in next season's UEFA Champions League at the earliest opportunity, there is more than local pride at stake when the Ruhr rivals lock horns on Matchday 27.
For Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp, qualification for Europe's premier club competition remains the primary objective: "It's all about reaching the Champions League directly. If we finish second, we'll have achieved that aim, as we'll have finished above every other team in the Bundesliga except one," said the charismatic coach at Monday's pre-match press conference. "I think the home team always have a slight advantage in derbies, but I don't think [home advantage] has too much of an effect on the outcome of the game."
Klopp also admitted to being an admirer of Schalke's younger stars, who have impressed with some eye-catching displays in recent games. "They have some outstanding young talents," he conceded. "Kaan Ayhan, Max Meyer and Julian Draxler have all been at the club a long time. I remember watching Meyer play for the youth team - he was phenomenal! If it wasn't Schalke, it'd be quite fun watching them," joked the 46-year-old.
Dortmund's continued injury crisis is much less of a laughing matter, however: Marcel Schmelzer remains sidelined with a groin injury sustained in the Champions League last-16 second-leg tie against FC Zenit, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who missed Saturday's 3-0 win over Hanover 96 with a bruised thigh, is in danger of joining Sven Bender, Neven Subotic, Jakub Blaszczykowski on the treatment table. Marco Reus, who returned from a muscle injury against Hannover, is likely to start the match.
Jens Keller, meanwhile, is likely to name the same side that beat Eintracht Braunschweig 3-1 last time out. The Schalke coach has several big-name casualties of his own, with Felipe Santana, Christian Fuchs, Benedikt Höwedes, Atsuto Uchida and Kyriakos Papadopoulos all injured. Nineteen-year-old Ayhan is set to keep his place in central defence alongside Joel Matip, while Jefferson Farfan is set to miss out with a knee injury. "The chances of him taking part in the match are very slim," Keller admitted.
One player who is looking forward to participating in Tuesday's encounter, however, is Schalke star Kevin-Prince Boateng. The 27-year-old made ten appearances for BVB during a brief loan spell in 2009 and will return to Signal Iduna Park for the first time in over four years on Tuesday. "It's a very special match for me, because I haven't set foot in that stadium for a long time," Boateng told s04.de.
Boateng and Co. have been in fine form domestically - a 5-1 defeat to Bayern on Matchday 23 notwithstanding. Keller's team have picked up 22 points from a possible 27 since the turn of the year, and could leapfrog Dortmund into second place with a win. "We have to field our best possible team, and I'm sure Dortmund will do the same," added Boateng, referring to both sides' personnel woes. "There will be 22 exceptional footballers on the pitch. I hope it'll be a great game."
Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, Sokratis, Hummels, Durm - Kehl, Sahin - Reus, Mkhitaryan, Großkreutz - Lewandowski
Schalke: Fährmann - Hoogland, Ayhan, Matip, Kolasinac - K.-P. Boateng, Neustädter - Goretzka, Meyer, Draxler - Huntelaar
Get in the mood for the second Revierderby of the 2013/14 season, courtesy of the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel: