The Revierderby has taken interesting twists and turns over the last decade. Schalke 04 were the bigger and better team during Dortmund's financial struggles, all the way through the 2009-10 season, but the tables turned significantly in the following campaign. Since then, Schalke has struggled to maintain their Champions League standing while Borussia Dortmund has competed for trophies, but the playing field might have leveled off a bit this season.
Previewing the Manchester Derby
At this point in their season, Manchester United are simply playing for pride, and there will probably be lots at stake on Tuesday. For Manchester City, the derby is the first of many difficult matches on the road towards the top of the table.
Bayern Munich are running away with the Bundesliga and could lock it up on Tuesday if Dortmund fail to win. But even if the trophy isn't granted to the Bavarians this week, their eventual conquest of the Bundesliga is inevitable, leaving Dortmund to compete with Schalke, Bayer Leverkusen and the teams below to hang on to an automatic Champions League spot. Schalke are only one point behind Dortmund, which is more indicative of Der BVB taking a step backwards than their rivals getting significantly better.
It's become nearly impossible to predict what's going to happen in these derbies, as they often defy form. Schalke were blindsided in 2010 by a man named Shinji Kagawa, who at that time was a complete unknown to the world outside of very serious fans of German and Japanese football. Last season, even though Dortmund finished second in the league and made two other finals, Schalke beat them twice.
This season's first edition of the Revierderby didn't go well for Schalke, but they started Dennis Aogo in midfield in that game and didn't have Klaas-Jan Huntelaar available. Max Meyer hadn't established himself as first choice yet, either. Schalke are a much different and much improved side.
But will it even matter? They've been ravaged by injuries and will likely be forced to start 19-year-old Kaan Ayhan in defense. Schalke are a better team than they were in the fall, but they're probably not better than Dortmund in their current state.
When they last met
Schalke 1-3 Borussia Dortmund. It was a bad day at the office for Die Königsblauen.
Schalke have been absolutely ravaged by injuries in defense and goal. Timo Hildebrand, Ralf Fährmann, Benedikt Höwedes, Christian Fuchs, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Felipe Santana, Atsuto Uchida and Jan Kirchhoff are all unavailable, along with backup utility man Dennis Aogo, who is a long-term absentee. Jefferson Farfan, Marco Höger and Christian Clemens are also injured.
The injury list isn't any shorter for Borussia Dortmund. They're missing five players who are arguably first choice when fit. Jakub Blaszczykowski, Neven Subotic, Ilkay Gündogan, Marcel Schmelzer and Sven Bender all sit out this match. Marco Reus has had some nagging injuries, but is fit for Tuesday. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was rested over the weekend with a minor muscle complaint, but should be able to play.
Projected lineups (left to right)
Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1): Roman Weidenfeller; Erik Durm, Mats Hummels, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Lukas Piszczek; Sebastian Kehl, Nuri Sahin; Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; Robert Lewandowski
Schalke 04 (4-2-3-1): Lars Unnerstall; Sead Kolasinac, Joel Matip, Kaan Ayhan, Tim Hoogland; Roman Neustädter, Kevin-Prince Boateng; Julian Draxler, Max Meyer, Chinedu Obasi; Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Schalke's right winger vs. Erik Durm - With Marcel Schmelzer out, the right flank could be worth attacking heavily for Schalke ... except they don't have Jefferson Farfan. Chinedu Obasi is a decent poor man's Farfan, while Leon Goretzka is a decent poor man's Julian Draxler, but neither is a star (at least at this point, Goretzka's in his first year in the Bundesliga). Schalke will have to exploit Dortmund's weakest spots to pull an upset, but do they even have the tools to do so? Perhaps playing Draxler on the right wouldn't be such a crazy idea.
Kevin Prince-Boateng vs. Dortmund's counter attack - Kevin Prince-Boateng is a very weird tweener. He's not quite creative enough to play as an attacking midfielder in most situations, but he's a great defensive player in that spot. He's a very nice dribbler and incisive passer for a box-to-box midfielder, but he's only average defensively and often hangs his partner out to dry in transition. He can't leave all of the defensive work to Roman Neustädter. If he does, Schalke will get burned by Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan repeatedly.
Schalke are hot, but their three-game winning streak has come against Hoffenheim, Augsburg and Eintracht Braunschweig. Not exactly a murderer's row. When they've come up against elite teams like Bayern or Real Madrid, they've been destroyed. Dortmund are somewhere in between those elite teams and average Bundesliga sides, so expect a result somewhere in between Schalke's polar opposite types of recent results. 2-1, Dortmund.