On Saturday 20th February, Schalke and Borussia Dortmund will meet once again in the Revierderby – considered ‘the mother of all derbies’, due to the fierce rivalry between two of German heartland’s most passionate sets of fans. But for both Dortmund and Schalke, this has been a season of misery – which is why the fixture brings some added spice, with both teams desperate to secure points, for very different reasons.
Under the guidance of David Wagner, last season, Schalke finished in a respectable 12th position – an improvement on the previous campaign. But this is still a far cry from their glory days in the Bundesliga’s top six, which saw them rewarded with entry to Europe’s club competitions. These days, they are rarely fancied, when it comes to the latest odd from bookmakers, such as Betdaq.
This season has seen nothing but turmoil at the Gelsenkirchen outfit. Managerial casualties, left, right and centre – beginning with the aforementioned Wagner back in September, only two games in. The writing was surely on the wall after an opening-day hammering at the hands of reigning champions Bayern Munich, in which Schalke shipped eight goals without reply – and continuing from a 16-match winless run from the previous campaign.
But since that departure, no man has steadied the ship. Manuel Baum picked up four points during his tenure, which went on to see Schalke rooted to the foot of the table and without a win in any of their first 14 matches – an unenviable record at any level. Current boss Christian Gross took charge at the back end of last year, and finally secured the club’s first league win of the campaign – a 4-0 triumph over Hoffenheim – but results either side of that, have not been favourable.
The crisis is not strictly limited to results, but behind the scenes too – with boardroom members departing, and financial losses accrued, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Most recently, technical director, Michael Reschke, left with immediate effect.
We’ve reached the midway point of the Bundesliga season, and Schalke have a mountain to climb. Nine points from safety, and with the worst goal difference of any team in the German top-flight, with each passing game, it’s becoming a tougher ask. Die Königsblauen are not only the lowest scorers in the division, with just 15 goals scored in 19 matches, but they’ve also conceded the highest number of goals – not helped by that opening day defeat, of course, but by numerous three- and four-goal deficits too. Their top scorer is Matthew Hoppe, who sits on just five goals for the campaign – but who netted a hat-trick in that vital win over Hoffenheim. At 19 years of age, perhaps there is too much pressure on the youngster to improve their fortunes.
Similarly, Dortmund have been unable to reach the high expectations that are thrust upon them each season. Runner-up finishes in the Bundesliga over the past two campaigns, lengthy runs in the Champions League, and on both occasions, losing out in the Round of 16, ensure the pressure is on to build upon that success.
Like Schalke, financial issues have been at the forefront of Dortmund’s issues. It’s believed that the club have already slashed the price of their star winger, Jadon Sancho, by £20m. Manchester United have been firmly on the 20-year-old’s radar, and his sale would certainly eliminate some of the debt accumulated by a lack of fans in the stadium, and with TV revenues down.
But on-the-pitch, they’ve suffered inconsistent bouts of form. At the beginning of the season, a number of impressive results, including a 4-0 home win over Freiburg and a 3-0 victory in the first Revierderby of the campaign, saw Dortmund reach those heady heights of second. But defeats to FC Koln and more notably, a 5-1 defeat at the hands of newly-promoted Stuttgart was enough to see Lucien Favre dismissed, with assistant manager, Edin Terzić, taking interim charge.
During his tenure as caretaker boss, Dortmund have slipped to as low as seventh in the Bundesliga table, and currently occupy sixth place, which would only warrant them a place in the Europa Conference League play-off round – the third tier of UEFA’s club competitions. More recently, they’ve suffered back-to-back losses to both Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach, respectively.
With competition for places in the Bundesliga top four, and a place in the Champions League very much at stake, Dortmund will be keen to make a swift return to form. With three teams currently on 32 points, and a single point behind Eintracht Frankfurt in fourth, a win in the Revierderby will help cement Dortmund’s chances of European football next campaign – while also closing the gaps that are starting to appear. For Schalke though, it’s all about survival and the team are desperate for points, for confidence and for their identity back. It’s a battle of two clubs at crisis – but who will come out on top?