Borussia Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl says his side have an “obligation” when they host Schalke in the 99th Ruhr derby of the Bundesliga era on Saturday.
While the derby is widely considered the biggest and most storied in German football history, the sides’ contrasting fortunes in recent seasons highlight the growing gap between them.
Speaking after his side’s narrow 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday, Kehl turned his focus to the “insanely important” game.
“I’m proud of our performance but for me it goes hand in hand with some obligations,” Kehl said late on Wednesday.
“It’s an insanely important game for us. (We need) to put in a really good performance again before the national team break.”
Dortmund gave one of the best displays of coach Edin Terzic’s reign against City and looked set for an unlikely victory thanks to a goal from Jude Bellingham, before late strikes from John Stones and former BVB striker Erling Haaland allowed the home side to snatch the win.
Even if the club went home with zero points, Kehl said Dortmund could take plenty out of the performance.
“If the team performs like they did today, then there can be only one winner on Saturday.”
While Dortmund may have gone toe-to-toe with the Champions League favourites in the lead-up to the bitter clash, Schalke come into the match on the back of their first Bundesliga win in 483 days — a 3-1 defeat of fellow Ruhr rivals Bochum.
Speaking on Thursday, Schalke coach Frank Kramer sought to get inside Dortmund’s head, saying the visitors would look to channel the spirit of fellow promoted side Werder Bremen who scored three late goals in four minutes to beat Dortmund 3-2 in August.
“Performing with determination and looking for a chance at any time — that’s what Bremen did in Dortmund and got the better of them,” Kramer said.
“They hit Dortmund where they didn’t expect it.
“We know it’s a special game. We want to rock it.”
One to watch: Niclas Fuellkrug (Werder Bremen)
Werder Bremen’s impressive rise under coach Ole Werner saw them promoted back to the Bundesliga at their first attempt — and it would have been close to impossible without Niclas Fuellkrug.
Fuellkrug and strike partner Marvin Ducksch scored 60 percent of Bremen’s goals in their promotion season.
While Ducksch has been quiet this season, Fuellkrug’s five goals in six matches, out of his team’s total of 12, has him atop the Bundesliga scoring charts.
His form is so strong he has an outside chance of making Germany coach Hansi Flick’s World Cup squad — a fact his club manager Werner is well aware of.
“Niclas is currently the most accurate striker Germany has. That shows how good he is and what quality he has. But the squad decision is made by others.”
36 wins – Dortmund have won 36 Ruhr derbies in the Bundesliga era, with Schalke picking up 32. There have been 30 draws.
13 matches – Union Berlin are unbeaten in 13 Bundesliga matches, a run which includes 10 wins and three draws.
1967/68 – The last and, until this week, only time Union Berlin finished a matchday on top of the table. Union topped the East German Oberliga once during the 1967/68 campaign.
0 – Zero points in six games for rock bottom Bochum who fired manager Thomas Reis on Monday.