The game will play out at an empty Westfalenstadion amid the current health crisis, with football bringing some form of normality back to our lives. The German government gave the go-ahead for the Bundesliga to return. The Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) chose May 16 as the earliest possible restart date, with strict protocols being put into place.
The fierce derby between Dortmund vs Schalke takes place on Matchday 26 and with BVB four points behind Bayern Munich, it gives Lucien Favre's side a chance to put early pressure on the Bavarians, who play Union Berlin on Sunday evening.
Marco Reus and Dan-Axel Zagadou are likely to miss the game with midfield pivot Emre Can and Axel Witsel also doubtful. This gives Favre the chance to start Julian Brandt in a deeper central-midfield role alongside Thomas Delaney in a favoured 3-4-2-1 formation. Raphael Guerreiro and Achraf Hakimi will operate on either side of the duo as opposed to a 4-2-3-1, which he last used in a 4-3 defeat at Bayer Leverkusen on February 8. Since their defeat in Leverkusen, Favre has opted for his 3-4-2-1 which has seen Borussia Dortmund remain unbeaten in four, losing just one out of 12 games (W10, D1, L1) that he’s used his preferred 3-4-2-1 this season.
As for David Wagner’s Schalke, they come into the Revierderby with just one win in ten Bundesliga games, a run that has questioned his future at the club, despite their exceptional start to the 2019/20 season. The two-month break has given Wagner a clean slate at the club and a chance for Schalke to rectify their dismal form, with a formation of 4-1-2-1-2 being his preferred formation.
Bragging rights have been shared in the past couple of season (BVB wins: 2, S04 wins: 2 Draws: 5) but it’s Favre’s Borussia Dortmund that trump Schalke in every attacking category heading into Saturday’s fixture.
Dortmund have scored 68 in comparison to Schalke’s 33, with Erling Haaland scoring nine in just 512 minutes, a shrewd signing for £18m. BVB also average 2.6 goals per game to Schalke’s 1.25 and have scored more than 2.5 goals per game 17 times this season.
Favre’s BVB average almost 200 passes (844/660) and touches (658/448) more P90 than Schalke. This could be contributed by two factors: Dortmund’s possession style football or Schalke’s tactical setup to sit back and counter-attack, thus seeing less of the ball.
But whilst Dortmund excel in an attacking sense, it’s their defence that lets them down. Conceding 33 goals, just three less than Schalke, BVB’s incapability to see out matches has hampered their pursuit of Bayern at the top of the table, with the champions currently in pole position to retain their crown.
It may not be football as we know it, but it’s football nonetheless and Dortmund vs Schalke will remain an intense fixture even without fans. In a match that would usually have 80,000 pairs of eyes descending on the players, we’ll be able to hear player shouts, the pracitice of social distancing with no handshakes, and masks being worn in the dugout. One thing is for certain though - on the pitch, it will be just as feisty and breathtaking as usual and with the Bundesliga being the only top-five league to resume, millions will be watching worldwide.
ONES TO WATCH
With Haaland, Reus and Jadon Sancho in the side, Brandt is often overlooked. The Germany international plays an integral role in Favre’s side and is pivotal to the success of the attacking trio at Dortmund. Favre’s decision to switch Brandt from a wide position to central-midfield has reaped rewards, which is evident given his FC ranking of 87.
Dortmund brought the 24-year-old to the Westfalenstadion to add some much-needed creativity to the side. Brandt comes second to Witsel (70.8) in Dortmund’s midfield for passes per 90 minutes with 64.7 in the Bundesliga but achieves 23.9 final third passes P90, the fourth highest in the Bundesliga. Favre’s decision to play Brandt deeper not only allows the playmaker to showcase his passing range, vision and ability to pick a pass, but his ability to dribble his way out of situations, averaging 2.8 dribbles P90.
Since joining from Mainz in 2018 for £9.5m, Suat Serdar has had a mixed time at Schalke. His first season coincided with the departure of Leon Goretzka to Bayern Munich, with the new arrival expecting to make an instant impact. Niggling injuries meant he couldn’t fulfil his potential but a strong start to the 2019/20 season resulted in his debut for Germany in October at 22-years-old.
Deployed in a midfield trio alongside Weston McKennie and Omar Mascarell, Serdar has scored seven goals from midfield. Amine Harit’s flair allows Serdar to arrive late in the penalty area, often catching defenders off-guard. His FC ranking of 82 makes Serdar Schalke’s joint best player alongside Mascarell. Due to Schalke’s style of play, the Germany international sees less of the ball, hence 26.7 passes P90 but his 2.9 dribbles P90 suggests that he’s been given a licence to get forward, which Dortmund need to be wary of.