Dortmund - Few teams have been able to live with and in recent weeks, so it was fitting that the pair chose the biggest game of the season, at least from a Ruhr District perspective, to underline once again that BVB are on the way back up.
A total of 146 league derbies have now been played between Dortmund and their bitter local rivals FC Schalke 04, including 86 in the Bundesliga era, but few encounters, especially in recent times, stand out as positively for Dortmund fans as Matchday 23’s 3-0 triumph at the Signal Iduna Park.
Borussia went into the clash with a woeful record of just two wins in their last 15 home derbies but, from the first whistle, the signs were clear that they would settle for nothing less than victory. They boasted a club-record 31 efforts on goal to Schalke’s three, enjoyed 64 per cent possession, forced more corners, played more passes and won more tackles. The goals arrived by virtue of three strikes in the final 12 minutes, but the Schwarz-Gelben might easily have hit double figures. Schalke, by contrast, greeted the final whistle with relief that the ordeal was over.
It was Aubameyang who opened the scoring with the kind of predatory close-range finish observers have become accustomed to this calendar year. This was his second derby goal, but his first at home and his first in a winning performance. An elaborate celebration involving his partner in crime and a pair of masks only added to the spectacle for the Gabonese international, now a certified Dortmund hero for life in the fans’ eyes.
For Reus, the born-and-bred Dortmunder and so often BVB’s leading light since returning to the club in 2012, it was also a first derby win on home turf. Leading from the front, his hounding of Schalke’s young goalkeeper Timon Wellenreuther forced the 19-year-old into a fatal error late on, the result of which was Dortmund’s third goal. Reus will no doubt score many more aesthetically-pleasing goals but few will bring quite the same satisfaction.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan also ended the game on the scoresheet and his relief was evident in the context of a trying personal campaign. But the day belonged to Reus and Aubameyang, the two players that have spearheaded the revival of a season that had threatened to be disastrous merely a few weeks ago.
Reus’ return to form has no doubt been a catalyst for Dortmund’s recent upswing, while the blossoming Aubameyang has helped ease the goalscoring burden on Borussia’s prized asset with five strikes of his own since the winter break, not to mention two assists.
Reus, meanwhile, has notched once in each of his last four games and duly it comes as little surprise that BVB have won all those encounters, cutting the deficit between them and the occupiers of the final European place, FC Augsburg, to a ‘mere’ seven points. However, the 25-year-old may be be forced to sit out this weekend's tricky-looking fixture away to Hamburger SV after picking up a knock in Dortmund's 2-0 DFB Cup win over SG Dynamo Dresden.
Hamburg up next
While a visit to the Red Shorts, currently down in 15th in the standings, may not sound overly difficult, BVB have not been without their struggles in the sides’ recent meetings. Since the Bundesliga’s inception, the two share an almost balanced record - HSV boast 35 wins to BVB’s 33, with 27 draws - but Hamburg have won four of the last five meetings, triumphing 3-0, 4-1 and, most recently on Matchday 7, 1-0 at the Signal Iduna Park.
Those three victories all came under different Hamburg coaches, suggesting Dortmund are yet to fully work out how to get the better of the Bundesliga’s only ever-present club. However, Klopp's charges are gunning for a fifth successive win and, with momentum well and truly on their side, few would bet against them getting the better of their bogey team on Matchday 24.