Coming up on the Bundesliga Preview Show this week...
It's one of the Bundesliga's great traditional duels and in recent years it has almost invariably been played out with both parties at or near the top of the standings: FC Bayern München against FC Schalke 04. This season is no exception and while all-conquering front-runners Bayern will be odds-on favourites to maintain their unblemished home record this season, the Royal Blues, chasing renewed qualification for the Champions League and steadily cohering under new coach Roberto Di Matteo, are unlikely to be overawed by the occasion. Not least given that they were one of only three teams to take anything off the record champs in the first half of the season, battling their way to a 1-1 draw on Matchday 2.
Helping the Dortmund cause forthwith as they battle to haul themselves up the table will be winter break signing Kevin Kampl. The 24-year-old German-born Slovenia international arrived from Salzburg with a burgeoning reputation as a quality attacking midfielder with an eye for goal and an even better one for a teammate in a scoring position. Impressive and hungry from the off at the club he supported as a youngster, Kampl has already shown signs of forging a promising new BVB frontline partnership with a fit-again Marco Reus.
He's a World Cup winner, the world keeper of the year and the last line of a record-breakingly stingy FC Bayern defence – and he learned his trade in Gelsenkirchen, the city where he was born and raised. Games against Schalke will thus always be a bit special for Manuel Neuer, who was already among the best in the business when he swapped the Ruhr district for Munich in 2011. The sentiment will be on hold, however, for the hour-and-a-half of onfield activity when the Royal Blues come calling on Tuesday. All that matters then for Neuer and his teammates is securing another three points towards one of the three major titles they still have very firmly in their sights this season.
Roger Schmidt's swift ascent of the coaching ladder landed him his first Bundesliga posting, via RB Salzburg, when he signed on at Bayer Leverkusen last summer. His start there could hardly have been more spectacular, as Karim Bellarabi set Bayer on the road to Matchday 1 victory at Dortmund with the league's fastest-ever goal, after all of nine seconds. It was no fluke either, but rather a textbook example of the Schmidt philosophy in action: ultra-high-pressing football, at any and every possible opportunity. It has been, and remains, an ongoing process of adaptation for the players but, with a few fast-rising new stars freshening up the mix as well, the coach has already radically altered the Leverkusen onfield brand.